Almost half of all children surveyed living in neighbourhoods where criminal gangs are present in Honduras and El Salvador do not have access to education, according to new reports by the Norwegian Refugee Council.
“Criminal violence is wreaking havoc on the lives of countless children in El Salvador and Honduras. Bright futures are being stolen every time that children are too afraid to attend school, and are forced to drop out. The future of an entire generation of boys and girls is at risk,” warned Christian Visnes, country director of the Norwegian Refugee Council in Colombia.
Two new reports called “A Generation Out Of School” found that children living in areas with violence in El Salvador and Honduras experience pressure, intimidation, sexual harassment and traumatic abuse by criminal groups. Their daily walk to school is dangerous and involves passing through gang territory or staying limited to one side of the community to not stray into rival gang territory.
Violent criminal groups are also present in classrooms and playgrounds. Gang members have succeeded in infiltrating the schools themselves and routinely promote the sale of drugs to minors, extort teachers and students, and carry out recruitment, surveillance and intelligence activities.
“My older kids werent able to study. I wanted them to graduate, but it wasnt possible. All my children have fled from the violence”, said a parent in Tegucigalpa.
In some areas, families are pressured to pay war taxes to criminal groups. They are then often unable to pay for uniforms and school materials for the children who continue to attend classes despite the many risks. Many families surveyed said that they do not feel safe in their homes. Only one third plan on staying in their homes, the rest plan on leaving their neighborhoods to find somewhere safer to live in their countries, or are completely unsure about their futures.
“Ending the systemic violence starts in the classroom. We need international support to make schools safe places to learn and grow, so that the next generation of Hondurans and Salvadorans dont turn to criminal gangs,” said Visnes.
- For the past four years, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) interviewed more than 5,000 households in communities affected by violence in Honduras and El Salvador, to identify children who have been forced to drop out of school, in order to provide opportunities for them to return to school.
- The reports reveal that half of all children interviewed are out of school in Honduras while 40 per cent are out of school in El Salvador. In total, 3,400 children surveyed living in neighbourhoods where criminal gangs are present in both Honduras and El Salvador are out of school.
- Families reported that they do not feel safe, and only a third plan on staying in their current homes in Honduras, while in El Salvador one of every two families plan on staying in their current homes.
- The impact of violence on daily life was tangible throughout NRCs research. As a result of violence, such as homicides in the community or tensions after police raids, NRC had to suspend its activities several times during the research period, and the whole operation took double the amount of time planned.
- Reports were funded by the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and NORAD.
European Politicians, Experts discuss the Libyan Civil War
On Tuesday, July 16, the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS), with the support of the Internat..
On Tuesday, July 16, the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS), with the support of the International Center for Relations and Diplomacy (ICRD) organised an event putting the Libyan conflict in focus while discussing what the EU could do to facilitate an end to the conflict.
The event was Chaired by Ambassador James Moran, the EUs former senior coordinator in Libya during the 2011 revolution and Associate Research Fellow at CEPS. The event took place in the aftermath of the ICRD fact-finding mission in Tripoli, Libya (June 7-10), which was represented on the panel by its President and founder, Sameh Habeeb.
The panel featured the Senior Political Advisor to the President of the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord of Libya, Taher El-Sonni.
On behalf of European Institutions, the panel featured Colin Scicluna, the Director of the Maghreb Department at European External Action Service. Also, present on the panel was Benedetta Berti, the Head of NATOs Policy Planning. Finally, among the speakers, was the French Ambassador to the Political and Security Committee, Nicolas Suran.
Context: Libya borders the southern EU periphery, and member states have both economic and security concerns in the vast African country. Economic stakes gravitate around the oil production sector, which is also the countrys primary source of income.
As regards to security concerns, there are mainly two issues under consideration: first, migration flows from Sub-Saharan Africa, via the vast territory of Libyan and the by sea to the shores of Italy; secondly, the growth of Salafi movements, including the Islamic State and Al-Qaida, who take advantage of the security vacuum in different areas of the country to establish strongholds from which they can expand their outreach.
A more detailed picture of the current context is offered in the ICRD/IPSE report of the fact-finding mission in Libya on June 7-10.
Content of the Discussion
The representative of the GNA Libyan government, Taher El-Sonni
“Any ceasefire requires the assailant to withdraw”
The representative of the GNA government, Taher El-Sonni, offered an initial assessment of the legacy of the European intervention in Libya, which despite its intentions, led to the collapse of the state as well as the regime. He recalled how in 2012 the GNA government was “parachuted” in Libya to face the surge of the Islamic State, Al-Qaida, the proliferation of human trafficking networks, and a weapons embargo that deprived the government of the means to its defence.
He reminded the audience of how the GNA government managed to defeat IS in just under eight months – prior to their defeat in Syria and Iraq – while managing to stem illegal migration and raise oil production from 150,000 to 1,5 million barrels a day. Finally, he underscored that the GNA government remained focused on uniting the country, committing to a peace process through successive conferences with the Benghazi based regime, who abandoned the talks, although the two parties had come close to an agreement on a roadmap that would lead to elections. He underscored that Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarrajand Khalifa Belqasim Haftar talked on March 26 and agreed to meet in the south of the country; instead, Haftar launched his offensive against Tripoli on April 4, while UN Secretary-General Antonio Antonio Guterres was in Tripoli.
“If someone attacks this room, we will not call for a cessation of violence; we will ask the assailant to stop.”
As regards to the military offensive itself, El-Sonni noted that the siege of Tripoli had lasted for more than 100 days, and it is clear that Haftaars threat to take over the capital within one or three days remains elusive. It is a stalemate, and a negotiated resolution of the conflict remains the only possible end.
El-Sonni outright dismissed the legitimating narrative of the Haftar regime – which explains the attack in terms of “radicalisation” as outright ridiculous, as the prisons of Tripoli are filled with 400 high-profile leaders of IS and Al-Qaida, while it was the GNA that drove the militant forces out of the Libyan capital. Instead, he noted, it is Haftar forces that have been shelling civilians, recruited and deployed child soldiers, and recently bombed a migration camp. The Libyan government representative also made an explicit accusation that the Haftar forces cooperate with Salafi tribal groups.
Regretfully, El-Sonni noted, EU statements condemn events but do not attribute responsibility, in sharp contrast to the statements issued by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Goutières.
As for the state of migrant camps, the GNA government representative noted that the EU looks at the 10,000 migrants who remain in Libyan camps, deploring their conditions, without assuming responsibility for them, attributing responsibility to a government at war. At the same time, little attention is paid to the 800,000 migrants in Libya who live in hand-to-mouth conditions in the streets. “Why dont you take them?” he asked. El-Sonni also wondered how it is possible that the EU does not have the intelligence required to fight those networks who traffic in human beings in Europe.
Repeatedly, El Sonni called for ceasefire and elections, the return to constitutional order, and the transformation of a dynamic between attackers and assailants to government and opposition. As for the objections raised about the context of the elections and the ongoing war, he noted that this did not stop the international community from supporting and overseeing electoral processes in Afghanistan, Syria and, in the past, Colombia.
When there is an attack, you ask the attacker to stop. We cannot cease fire if we are defending ourselves. You should ask the attacker to stop. About the embargo: in 2011, the embargo has an opportunity cost of $1bn. We cannot manage it, and we are losing. We should have access. As for French weapons, we act on facts. We have asked to have official verification of how the weapons reached. And they were found in Haftaars stronghold. So, you are acknowledging of violating the weapons embargo, despite your good intentions. Finally, if you want to fight human trafficking, we should not focus just on transit
Collin Scicluna, External Action Service
“The EU could certainly be doing a lot more”
The Director of Maghreb Department of the External Action Service, Collin Scicluna, begun by admitting that EU institutions are often forced to use careful language, given the evident divergence between EU member states. He also admitted that over 60% of EU funds spent in Libya are devoted to the migration-related activity, although he recalled that 40% had been earmarked for the support of essential social services in Libya, particularly public health.
He admitted that the EU could “certainly be doing a lot more.” As regards to the offensive against Tripoli, he recalled that the EU called on the LNA regime to abandon its positions in Tripoli.
Looking ahead, he echoed the view that there is a military stalemate and, in any event, it would be hard to imagine a “popular buy-in” for a military solution. As regards to elections, he noted that although the EU in principle favours elections, the context provides little guarantee that any result would be respected. Overall, the EU remains supportive of the idea of a national conference that will lead to constitutional order that is sufficiently inclusive to ensure “a popular buy-in.” However, any way forward would require the Security Council to move, which is not the case at this moment in time.
Addressing the question of how the EU deals with actors “external to the conflict” – UAE, Saudi Arabia, Turkey – Scicluna said that the only response possible was to create a space for negotiations, recognising the limits of European leverage.
Scicluna also outright dismissed the question raised about the charges of complicity that the EU faces in relation to the death at sea of thousands of migrants, raised by the prosecutor of the international criminal court.
French Ambassador, Nicolas Suran
“Our foreign policy is not driven by our enterprises,”
Ambassador Nicolas Suran argued that France, both as an EU member state and as a sovereign actor, seeks to fulfil two objectives: first, to deescalate conflict; secondly, to bring back the parties to the negotiating table, supporting the role of the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General to Libya, Ghassan Salame.
He reasoned that the French position in Libya is very much driven by concerns about the surge of terrorism, noting that France feared a spill-over to the Sahel region. He called on the audience to recognise that the Haftar regime did make some progress in that direction. He praised the Sofia operation for stemming migrants and noted that the EU has done its utmost to build the capacity of Libyas coastguard, as the government retains control of its own territorial waters.
Addressing the question of conflicting oil interests between Italy and France in Libya, linked to support for the Haftar regime, Ambassador Suran categorically denied that French companies drive French foreign policy. “Our foreign policy is not driven by our enterprises,” he said, reiterating that France believes that Haftar has managed to address security concerns in Libya.
Addressing the question about a cache of French weapons found in one of the LNA camps, revealed by the New York Times, the French Ambassador reiterated the position that the arsenal was brought to Libya to protect French intelligence operating in the South of Libya. At which point, the Libyan GNA government representative, El-Sonni, noted that this admission proves that at the very least the French government violated the armaments embargo, “even if the French government acted with the best of intentions.” In any event, El-Sonni noted, the GNA government never questioned the significance of fighting terrorism in the South, although there are concerns that this is used as a legitimating discourse by LNA forces. “Investment in Haftars anti-terrorism capacity has drawn him away from the political process,” El Sonni noted.
NATO Head of Policy Planning, Benedetta Berti
Step 1 Ceasefire, Step 2 Stabilisation, Step 3 Negotiated agreement followed by state-building
Looking ahead to support the political solution, Benedetta Berti outlined a three-step roadmap paving the way towards conflict resolution in Libya.
- Steep 1: all parties, local and international, should come to a consensus that there is no military solution. We need a ceasefire and the resumption of negotiations.
- Step 2: The situation is unstable with consequences in Maghreb and Sahel; the security vacuum is hugely significant; the two parties need to come to an understanding for a transition to stability, ending a “prolonged and protracted crisis” that will regenerate the vicious circle of non-state actors stepping in to fill the security vacuum.
- Step 3: The lesson we should take for other instances (Yemen/Syria) is that the only solution is a negotiated solution.
However, Berti cautioned, stabilisation can only be the beginning, and the EU and other international actors needed to follow through with institution-building. She noted that NATO is available in the process to contribute to the building of effective and resilient security institutions.
ICRD President, Sameh Habeeb
“The Haftar regimes counts on the support of UAE and Saudi Arabia, as do most undemocratic regimes across the Middle East and Africa, from Yemen to Sudan.”
Sameh Habeeb reviewed the experience of the ICRD fact-finding mission in Libya, referring to the consultation with all political stakeholders, including civic organisations, political parties, the Prime Minister, and the UN General Secretary special envoy.
He noted that the impression of the delegation was that they were landing in a war-torn region, realising that the life in Tripoli was not as reflected in European media. Noting what the mission felt was an effective disinformation campaign, he emphasised that stakeholders on the ground were keen to condemn the role of France, while civic groups did not want to validate General Haftar as a legitimate discussant, referring to him as “a warlord.”
Habeeb also noted that the Libyan conflict is in effect a “war by proxy” with regional and European governments putting their weight behind General Haftars forces. This is a policy that is consistent with their support of oppressive regimes throughout the region, from Yemen to Sudan.
Somalia’s attack is a horrific targeting and a mass murder
Geneva – The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor strongly condemned a terrorist bombing that tar..
Geneva – The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor strongly condemned a terrorist bombing that targeted a hotel in Somalia and left dozens dead and wounded, including two journalists.
The Geneva-based international organization said that Friday’s suicide bombing in the southern Somali city of Kismayo, which killed 24 people and wounded 56, was a horrific act and a mass murder.
“Canadian journalist, Hodan Nalayeh, and her husband were among the victims of the attack, in addition to journalist Mohammed Sahel known as Jumtairi, who works for SBC, a local Somali channel,” said Selin Yasar, Euro-Med’s communication and media officer.
The Somali government reported the deaths and injuries of non-Somali nationals in the bombing.
According to local Somali reports, the Somali security forces managed put off the attack that targeted the hotel after hours of gunfire clashes and killed the five attackers.
Al-Shabab, a Somali armed group, announced on Friday evening its responsibility for the attack, according to a statement posted on the website of Somalimemo, which belongs to the group. The attack comes at a time when Kismayo is preparing to hold local presidential elections for the state of Jubaland in August.
Yasar stressed that all parties in Somalia should protect the right to life by enforcing law and punishing human rights violators and perpetrators of violence.
The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor called on the Somali government and the Somali security forces to open an independent investigation into the horrific crime in order to bring those responsible to justice.
The Geneva-based organization stressed that such attacks assert the attackers disregard for human life, aussring the responsibility of the local authorities to take all appropriate steps to ease tensions and possible outbreaks of further violence.
Euro-Med reviews regional crises for new European Parliament members
The European-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor urged newly elected members of the Parliament of the..
The European-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor urged newly elected members of the Parliament of the European Union to play a more active role in the humanitarian crises in the Middle East and to respond to the humanitarian challenge posed by the plight of refugees in Europe. The memos also described serious human rights violations by governments and non-state actors across the Middle East.
In a series of memos sent after the ninth set of parliamentary elections, the Geneva-based organisation stated that refugee crisis that began in 2015 constituted the most serious humanitarian challenge for member states thus far. Euro-Med highlighted that the policies pursued by some member states deprived refugees of their rights under various international treaties.
The memos reminded European parliamentarians of the reasons that so many people in the Middle East were being forced to flee their homes, including serious human rights violations, and of the need for increased European influence to address these reasons.
In particular, the memos highlighted the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen, described by the United Nations as the worst humanitarian disaster in the world that has resulted in untold suffering for civilians.
Parliamentarians were reminded that indiscriminate airstrikes by the Saudi-led military alliance and the repeated use of cluster munitions against civilians constituted a flagrant violation of the laws of war and the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The memos also addressed the actions of Houthi forces, such as the use of landmines and the indiscriminate firing of rockets from positions in Yemen into civilian areas of Saudi Arabia, as well as arbitrary arrests and torture being practiced by both parties.
Euro-Med highlighted government repression in Sudan. Since mid-December last year, the regime in Sudan has responded violently to peaceful popular protests. Government forces have used live ammunition against peaceful protestors, killing dozens, and have arrested and unlawfully detained hundreds more, including members of political parties, students, doctors, journalists and human rights activists.
Also highlighted in the memos was the deteriorating human rights situation in Saudi Arabia over the past two years, most notably the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. Despite the international pressure, the perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice and no measures have been taken to avoid similar incidents in the future.
Saudi authorities have also arrested peaceful human rights activists and critics of the government for no reason other than criticising the government or demanding their basic human rights, the memos noted.
Parliament members were also informed of the situation in Syria. Since 2011, more the civil war has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 people, and the Syrian Government has repeatedly used internationally banned weapons against civilians in areas under rebel control, including chemical weapons, in a clear violation of international humanitarian law.
More than 1.5 million Syrian refugees are now living in Lebanon. Here they face discrimination, and more than 74% lack official legal resident status. As a result, Syrians face serious impediments to their ability to work, to access healthcare and education, and to travel freely throughout Lebanon. Additionally, they are subject to racist campaigns directed against their presence in the country.
Euro-Med also called attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in Egypt. Here, the government have used anti-terrorism laws to carry out large-scale arbitrary arrests to prosecute political opponents and disrupt peaceful gatherings and civil society organisation.
The memos highlighted the actions of the Israeli government in the Palestinian territories, noting Israels unequal and systematic discriminatory treatment of Palestinians, the repeated use of excessive force and prolonged detention by security forces.
The memos also condemned the actions of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, and Hamas in the West Bank, which included arbitrary detention and restrictions on political opposition groups.
The memos also informed EU parliament members of the situation in Libya, where armed clashes continue between the internationally recognised Government of National Accord, based in Tripoli, and the forces of retired General Khalifa Hafter, based in Benghazi. The civil war has resulted in the internal displacement of tens of thousands and widespread disruption to basic services including healthcare and electricity.
Furthermore, instability in Libya facilitates the abuse of migrants and asylum seekers, many of whom are children, by people traffickers and the Libyan Coast Guard. Those who attempt the crossing risk torture, sexual abuse and forced labour.
Euro-Med also raised concerns about the political climate in Algeria, where civilians are being prosecuted for insulting the president, insulting state officials, and defaming Islam, despite the constitutional amendment of 2016 that guarantees freedom of expression.
The situation in Iraq was also highlighted in the memos, where journalists and members of the judiciary continue to be harassed and detained arbitrarily. Peaceful demonstrations throughout the country have also been met with excessive force by government forces, including in the Kurdistan region.
The memo also contained a summary of the human rights situation in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where the government has carried out arbitrary arrests and disappearances of political opponents. There are reports of detainees being poorly treated while in state custody. The government also maintains oppressive labour relations, denying the rights of workers. The Gulf state is also a member of the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen, and so is complicit in the war crimes being committed there.
Euro-Med concluded the memo by urging European Parliamentarians to focus on ending conflicts in the region and easing the suffering of the millions of civilians, as well as ending the supply of weapons to all parties involved in the conflict.
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