With Mosul reclaimed, accountability key to heal Iraq’s ‘ISIL wounds’ – UN rights chief

With Mosul reclaimed, accountability key to heal Iraq’s ‘ISIL wounds’ – UN rights chief

Although the retaking of Mosul city from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters by Iraqi Government forces marks a significant turning point in the conflict, Iraq must ensure that those who committed crimes be held accountable, the United Nations human rights chief has said.

“Dialogue between communities needs to begin now to try to halt the cycle of violence, and to promote accountability for the crimes against Iraqis,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in a news release from his Office (OHCHR).

“The right to truth must prevail to ensure ISIL’s crimes do not poison Iraqi society for generations,” he stressed.

With Mosul now reclaimed, the extent of ISIL’s violations and abuses has become even more evident. Information gathered by OHCHR strongly suggests that international crimes may have been perpetrated by ISIL during the three years that the group was in control not only of Mosul but of large areas of Iraq.

The right to truth must prevail to ensure ISIL’s crimes do not poison Iraqi society for generations

“ISIL’s serious and systematic violations of international humanitarian law and gross abuses and violations of human rights, including the sexual slavery of women and girls, committed over these past three years have left deep scars on Iraqi society,” Mr. Zeid said. This includes the abduction of 1,636 women and girls, and 1,733 men and boys from the Yezidi community who remain unaccounted for.

Even now, ISIL fighters can terrify and kill through bombings and abductions, and people are still being subjected to daily horrors and suffering in remaining ISIL strongholds, such as Tal Afar and Hawijah, Mr. Zeid warned.

He also noted that there have also been allegations of human rights violations and abuses by the Government security and associated forces, as well as by individuals taking revenge against captured ISIL fighters or people accused of supporting them.

Such punishments are an act of vengeance that works against national reconciliation and social cohesion, he warned.

“The most fitting response… is to step up efforts to create an Iraq grounded in equality and the rule of law,” he said.

The High Commissioner welcomed the fact that the judicial authorities have launched investigations into allegations of serious human rights violations committed by pro-government forces, and he called on the Government to make the findings public and ensure that perpetrators are brought before courts.

Given the large-scale nature of serious crimes, Iraq should also seek legal reforms to allow domestic courts to have jurisdiction over international crimes. To this end, the OHCHR and the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) are supporting efforts to initiate a legal framework to establish a specialised court competent to try alleged perpetrators for international crimes.

“I urge the Iraqi Government to prioritise advancing accountability and also repeat my call for the Government of Iraq to become a party to the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC),” he said.

‘Important work ahead,’ Security Council says, as UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire concludes

‘Important work ahead,’ Security Council says, as UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire concludes

Recognizing the efforts of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) in promoting peace, stability and development, the UN Security Council today marked the closing of the mission by underscoring the importance of action by the Government to address the remaining challenges in the country for the benefit of all Ivorians.

In a statement read out by Ambassador Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz of Bolivia, which holds the Council presidency for June, the 15-member body also emphasized that the departure of the mission did not mark the end of the UN’s support to the country.

In addition, the Council welcomed progress in the West African nation, including the consolidation of peace and stability, improvements in economic prosperity and the successful holding of presidential and legislative elections in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

At the same time, it noted that “there is important work ahead” in tackling remaining challenges – including in the fight against impunity, the advancement of national reconciliation and social cohesion, security sector reform and other critical areas.

It also noted that the Government had indicated that the UN would continue to be an important partner in the next phase of Côte d’Ivoire’s development, and in that regard, encouraged the international community, including bilateral and multilateral donors, to assist the activities of the UN Country Team – the group of all UN agencies working in Côte d’Ivoire – and to consider providing funding for its transition plan.

Also in the statement, the Security Council requested the Secretary-General to undertake a study on UNOCI’s role in Côte d’Ivoire, and expressed its intention to take its findings into account in ongoing efforts to enhance the overall effectiveness of UN peacekeeping efforts.

The UN mission was deployed to Côte d’Ivoire in 2004 when the country was divided in half by an armed conflict. During its time in the country, the mission helped protect civilians, enabled inclusive political dialogue and supported the Government in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of nearly 70,000 former combatants.

It also supported social cohesion through about 1,000 quick impact projects, resulting in the decrease in inter-communal conflicts by 80 per cent.

UN welcomes major partnership initiative with tech giants to counter terrorism online

UN welcomes major partnership initiative with tech giants to counter terrorism online

A senior United Nations official has called for sustained joint efforts to combat terrorism and welcomed a partnership initiative with tech giants Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube to counter terrorism and violent extremism online.

“I welcome this major initiative, which elevates our existing private-public partnership with these and other companies,” said Jean-Paul Laborde, UN Assistant Secretary-General and the Executive Director of the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate.

“The UN remains committed to addressing the scourge of terrorism, and we look forward to remaining a key partner to the private sector,” he added.

The four tech giants have already developed and have put in place policies and removal practices to take a hard line against terrorist or violent extremist content on their hosted consumer services.

The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism partnership will help further strengthen these “counter-speech” protections through research- and evidence-based efforts and technical and policy decisions around the removal of terrorist content, noted a news release issued by the Executive Directorate.

By working together, and through the sharing of the best technological and operational elements of their individual efforts, they believe they can have a greater impact on the threat of terrorist content online, it added.

The new forum builds on initiatives, such as the European Union (EU) Internet Forum and the Shared Industry Hash Database as well as discussions with governments and the outcomes of recent G7 and European Council meetings.

It will also help strengthen existing and build future areas of collaboration between these companies, including with smaller tech enterprises, civil society groups and academics, as well as with governments, and intergovernmental bodies like the EU and the UN.

The companies will also be hosting a series of learning workshops in partnership with the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate and the ICT4Peace Foundation in Silicon Valley (which is home to many of the world’s largest high-tech corporations) and around the world to drive these areas of collaboration.

Within the UN system, the Security Council continues to closely follow efforts to combat terrorism as well as other issues that represent serious threats to international peace and security.

Last month, it unanimously adopted a resolution which, among others, provides a comprehensive international framework to counter terrorist narratives and amplifies positive and credible alternatives to audiences vulnerable to extremist messages, especially those on social media.

World Refugee Day 2017

World Refugee Day

With a record 65.6 million people last year forcibly uprooted from their homes by violence and persecution, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today called on the international community to provide support and solidarity.

“We reflect on the courage of those who fled and the compassion of those who welcome them,” the Secretary-General said in his video message for World Refugee Day, marked annually on 20 June.

He noted that more people than ever in our lifetimes are fleeing war, disasters and persecution.

“Hardship, separation, death,” Mr. Guterres said, recalling nightmare stories heard from refugees and displaced persons, whose number rose 300,000 since the end of 2015.

Stand #withrefugees

Stand #withrefugees

Conflicts have displaced 12 million Syrians, 7.7 million Colombians, 4.7 million Afghans and 4.2 million Iraqis, according to a report released yesterday by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Despite the hardships of fleeing with nothing, “they never lose their dreams for their children or their desire to better our world,” Mr. Guterres said. “They ask for little – only our support in their time of greatest need and our solidarity.”

The UN chief said it is “so inspiring to see countries with the least doing the most for refugees.”

According to the report, about 84 per cent of the people were in low- or middle-income countries as of end 2016. Of that figure, one in every three people, roughly 4.9 million people, were hosted by the least developed countries.

To mark the Day, Mr. Guterr will hold a press conference in New York later today.

When we stand #WithRefugees, we also stand for respect and diversity for all

In his remarks, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said the Day is also a moment to recognize those communities and people around the world who receive refugees and the internally displaced in their midst, offering them a safe place, and welcoming them in their societies.

In a world in which uncertainty often abounds; economic instability, political upheaval and violence close to home “can make us want to shut our eyes or close our doors. But fear and exclusion will not lead us to a better place – they can only lead to barriers, alienation and despair,” he stressed.

“It’s time to change this trajectory. And for the better,” he stated, noting that in countless communities, including in the poorest countries that host the vast majority of the world’s refugees, business people, faith communities, teachers, journalists and many more are joining together to provide refuge to the displaced and foster their inclusion in their societies.

“Inclusion requires opening our minds, hearts and communities to refugees. It requires a whole of society approach,” Mr. Grandi underscored.

World Refugee Day is a moment to ask what each of us can do to overcome indifference or fear and embrace the idea of inclusion, “to welcome refugees to our own communities, and to counter narratives that would seek to exclude and marginalize refugees and other uprooted people,” he emphasized.