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UN chief calls for compliance with rules of war to protect civilians, deplores violations

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres remarks to the Security Council meeting on the p..

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres remarks to the Security Council meeting on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, in New York today:

I thank the Government of Indonesia for convening this open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.

This year marks the seventieth anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, a cornerstone of international humanitarian law. And it is with enormous pleasure that I see with us Peter Maurer, the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the guardian of these Conventions.

It also marks the twentieth anniversary of the Security Councils adoption of the protection of civilians as an item on its agenda — a response to the Councils “deep concern” at the erosion of respect for international humanitarian law. However, while the normative framework has been strengthened, compliance has deteriorated. We are rightly critical when assessing the state of the protection of civilians, for there is great cause for concern.

But, let us first recall that we have seen some progress over the last 20 years. A culture of protection has taken root in the Security Council and across the United Nations. To use the Councils own words, protection of civilians is “one of the core issues” on its agenda. A comprehensive protection framework now exists, based on international law and Security Council practice.

The protection of children and of all civilians from the loathsome acts of sexual violence in conflict has been strengthened through the deployment of specialist advisers in peace operations, reinforcing the work of humanitarian agencies. Monitoring and reporting on grave violations against children in conflicts and engagement with warring parties has led to the demobilization and reintegration of thousands of children. And Security Council-mandated United Nations peace operations have protected and saved countless civilian lives.

In South Sudan, nearly 200,000 internally displaced people are currently sheltering at sites for the protection of civilians. In the Central African Republic, the United Nations mission has supported local peace and ceasefire agreements that are monitored by civilian and military components. Civilian casualty recording by the United Nations in Afghanistan has led to the adoption of measures by pro-Government forces to minimize harm.

Millions of civilians receive cross-border humanitarian assistance in Syria. And war criminals, from Cambodia to the former Yugoslavia, have been tried and convicted. Security Council resolutions on the protection of medical care in armed conflict and on conflict and hunger have given important focus and urgency to these issues. I look forward to working with Member States to ensure that they are implemented.

But, despite these advances, grave human suffering is still being caused by armed conflicts and lack of compliance with international humanitarian law. As my report underlines, civilians continue to make up the vast majority of casualties in conflict. In 2018 alone, the United Nations recorded the death and injury of more than 22,800 civilians in just six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. In Idleb, in north-west Syria, we saw a new wave of shelling and air strikes against hospitals, schools, markets and camps for the displaced, killing, wounding and creating panic among the civilian population.

In all conflicts, when explosive weapons were used in populated areas, 90 per cent of those killed and injured were civilians. Overall, some 1.4 million people were newly displaced across international borders, while a further 5.2 million were internally displaced. Widespread access constraints jeopardized humanitarian and medical assistance to civilians in need.

Violence against humanitarian and medical workers and facilities persisted. The World Health Organization (WHO) recorded 705 attacks against health-care workers and facilities in just eight conflicts, resulting in 451 deaths and 860 injuries. Three hundred and sixty-nine aid workers were kidnapped, wounded or killed. And starvation of civilians was used as a method of warfare, as well as rape and sexual violence.

Chief among our challenges is enhancing and ensuring respect for and compliance with international humanitarian law in the conduct of hostilities. In many cases, our information suggests that respect for those bodies of law is at best questionable; in others, and as detailed in several of my country-specific reports, we have witnessed blatant violations.

Nonetheless, there are examples where warring parties respect the law and are implementing precautions, collateral damage estimation and other efforts to minimize the impact of fighting on civilians. These practices must be implemented effectively and standardized across parties and theatres of operation. And greater attention must be paid to those who are already vulnerable during peace time — such as the elderly, children and the disabled — who are rendered all the more vulnerable and in need of protection during flight and conflict.

We must also take urgent action to reduce the humanitarian impact of urban warfare, and in particular, of explosive weapons. Member States should do more to condition arms exports on respect for international humanitarian law and human rights law. And they must call for greater respect for the law and protection of civilians by parties to conflict, and in particular, partner forces, including in the context of multinational coalition operations.

We also need greater progress on accountability by closing the gap between allegations of serious violations and their investigation and prosecution. Progress is needed most at the national level. My report recommends action in three areas.

First, to develop national policy frameworks that establish clear institutional authorities and responsibilities for the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Second, principled and sustained engagement by humanitarian organizations and others with non-State armed groups to negotiate safe and timely humanitarian access and promote compliance with the law. Third, ensuring accountability for serious violations.

The United Nations Security Council, as a practical matter, can do much to enhance compliance with the laws of war. This includes providing financial and technical assistance to support the investigation and prosecution of war crimes in conflict-affected States. We also need action at the global and multilateral levels.

For the Security Council, this means being more consistent in how it addresses protection concerns within and across different conflicts, and being more comprehensive in terms of, for example, grappling with the protection challenges of urban warfare. And it means keeping todays conversation going, with Member States, United Nations actors and civil society engaging on a sustained basis to implement the actions I have outlined.

For, as bleak as the current state of protection is, there is considerable scope for improvement if we each do our utmost to promote and implement the rules that bind us to preserve humanity in war. This is the best way that we can honour the twentieth anniversary of the protection agenda. We have the rules and laws of war. We all now need to work to enhance compliance.

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Norway Should Immediately Investigate the Mysterious Death of Palestinian Shatha Al-Barghouti

Geneva – The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor calls on the Norwegian government to immediatel..

Geneva – The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor calls on the Norwegian government to immediately investigate the death of 17-year-old Palestinian Shatha Al-Barghouti, who died last Wednesday while in custody of the Norwegian Child Welfare Services, Barnevernet.

Shatha had petitioned Barnevernet to be reunited with her parents. However, two weeks before her reunification, she was found dead and her death was explained as suicide.

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Shatha Al-Barghouti was taken, along with her two younger siblings, from her parents about seven years ago by Barnevernet on grounds of parental neglect, although, Shathas parents tried desperately to prove otherwise and showed great remorse over the reasons that led to such situation.

Barnevernet has been widely criticised on both national and international levels for many reasons, one of which has been over how the agency takes over custody too easily, where it has a too low threshold for taking action and confiscating children from their parents. The agency has been also ill-reputed for the suffering and abuse some children experience while living in its orphanages.

According to Shathas parents, she had petitioned Barnevernet to be reunited with her parents as she was close to the age of becoming legally responsible for herself. However, two weeks before her reunification, Shatha was found dead and her death was explained as suicide.

The family refuses such explanation and consistently demands an immediate independent and transparent investigation into the death of their eldest daughter. The family also fears for the fate of Shathas two younger siblings and demands to regain custody over them again immediately to provide the necessary safety for them that Barnevernet crucially failed to provide for their late elder sister.

Therefore, Euro-Med Monitor calls on the Norwegian government to immediately intervene and launch a serious investigation into the circumstances that led to Sathas death, in order to hold accountable anyone who might have contributed to this fate.

Euro-Med Monitor calls on the Norwegian government to thoroughly revise the mechanisms and structures that govern Barnevernets conduct, and to undertake immediate disciplinary actions against it

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Euro-Med Monitor also demands the immediate release of Sathas two younger siblings, Mohammed and Ahmed, to be reunited with their deeply aggrieved parents, whove been living in terrible fear and trauma ever since the three children were taken away from them.

Euro-Med Monitor emphasizes that giving the parents another chance to prove themselves worthy of the custody over their two remaining children is the least the Norwegian government could do to compensate for the negligence that led to Sathas death.

Finally, Euro-Med Monitor calls on the Norwegian government to thoroughly revise the mechanisms and structures that govern Barnevernets conduct, and to undertake immediate disciplinary actions against Barnevernet to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children held by the agency so that the terrible incident of Sathas death would be the last of such kind.

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Deadly airstrikes and drone hits displace thousands of civilians in Libya

Intensifying clashes in the southern Libyan town of Murzuq involving air and drone strikes in recent..

Intensifying clashes in the southern Libyan town of Murzuq involving air and drone strikes in recent days have left at least 90 people dead and displaced thousands of “terrified” civilians, the UN said on Tuesday.

“Casualties on all sides of the fighting have continued as a result of airstrikes by planes and drones, indiscriminate rocket attacks and shelling, and direct fighting on the ground,” said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

OCHAs warning over the small oasis town echoes concerns by the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and other UN agencies.

The alert follows reports by local media that the clashes involved tribal opponents of the self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) of commander Khalifa Haftar, which began an offensive on the southern outskirts of Libyas capital, Tripoli, in April.

Asked about the identities of the victims in Murzuq, Mr. Laerke replied that they included children.

“It is a civilian area, its in a country where people tend – families tend – to be big and there are many children,” he said, before highlighting a deadly mortar strike on a house for displaced people in the Bendalwah neighbourhood earlier this month.

“We know for a fact at least (of) six children, two of them were killed, four of them were injured in a strike that hit a house, hosting internally displaced people on 8 August,” Mr. Laerke added.

According to the UN migration agency, IOM, 9,450 people have been displaced by the violence in and around Murzuq since the beginning of August.

At least 3,000 of them have been uprooted since violence intensified last week, IOM said.

“Most families previously displaced within neighbourhoods of Murzuq City have also left the town to nearby communities,” an IOM statement read. “Reported displacements include around 300 migrants from Niger, Chad and Nigeria.”

Families too terrified to seek safety

Nonetheless, many “are of course terrified that if they move, they will be perceived as affiliated to one side of the other and maybe targeted”, Mr Laerke said. “Some families are reluctant to leave the affected areas because they are afraid of reprisals.”

To respond to urgent needs, the UN and partner humanitarian organizations “are responding with emergency health care, food distribution, shelter and non-food items”, Mr. Laerke added, noting that access remains difficult, “due to the active fighting”.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) shipped medical supplies to support health facilities in Murzuqs conflict zone, with enough supplies to help 60,000 people for three months and 600 surgical procedures.

Access is far more limited inside Murzuq itself, “with many roads damaged and many roadblocks,” Mr. Laerke said.

Amid growing humanitarian needs, the OCHA spokesperson appealed to all parties involved in the fighting to “allow people to leave if they so wish, so they can reach a place where they can be assisted, and of course to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure in the first place, according to international humanitarian law.”

Additional support from the international community is needed to help the vulnerable, Mr. Laerke said, noting that the $202 million Humanitarian Response Plan for Libya is currently only 30 per cent funded.

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Euro-Med and HUMENA: Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem amounts to ethnic cleansing

Geneva – The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and HUMENA for Human Rights and Civil Participa..

Geneva – The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and HUMENA for Human Rights and Civil Participation said in a statement that the systematic destruction of Palestinian homes and property in occupied East Jerusalem is approved by the US administration, which legalized these crimes by declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel amid international silence that amounts to complicity.
In a report that monitored human rights violations in Jerusalem during July 2019, the Euro-Med and HUMENA said that Israeli authorities have stepped up their arbitrary violations against Palestinians living in occupied East Jerusalem. Last month witnessed the largest mass destruction in a single day since 1967 as Israeli authorities demolished 11 residential buildings (72 apartments) in a crime amounting to ethnic cleansing.

The report, entitled “Wadi al-Hummus in Jerusalem; facing Israeli ethnic cleansing,” said that the destruction of Palestinian buildings resulted in the displacement of 22 people, including (14) children, and deprived more than (70) families from their apartments, most of which were still under construction.

The report added that since the beginning of 2019, Israeli authorities destroyed more than 59 houses in East Jerusalem until mid-2019. While 2018 witnessed 215 demolitions.

In addition to Wadi al- Hummus neighborhood, Israeli occupation forces destroyed a car park, a garage, a warehouse, a car wash and five shops in the last month.

The Euro-Med and HUMENA monitored five complex violations as part of crimes of settlement expansion and Judaization of the occupied city, most notably the seizure of a Palestinian house and a building evacuation by force in order to hand both over to Israeli settlers. Moreover, at the same time of the demolition of Palestinian homes, Israeli occupation authorities approved the establishment of 216 new housing units in the Gilo settlement.

Several parties, including the Israeli government, municipal authorities of Jerusalem or judicial authorities, collude to carry out systematic demolitions aimed to forcefully displace Palestinians. Which falls within the occupation’s efforts to change the demographic reality in the occupied city.

This systematic policy pursued by Israel takes place without any regards to the principles of international law, which reflects Israels pursuit of demographic change in East Jerusalem by employing all its government, political and security arms.

On the other hand, the two organizations documented two incidents that signify the Israeli occupation’s disregard for Palestinian childhood; such as the summoning of 4-year-old Mohammed Rabi ‘Alayyan, and the 6-year-old Qais Firas Obeid, under the pretext of throwing stones at their forces.

The report also documented 43 Israeli raids on different towns and neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem; which entailed the arrest of 102 civilians, including 19 children, a woman, a girl and a female journalist.

For instance, in five raids that included shooting and direct assault in the neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli forces injured seven civilians, including a child, a journalist and an elderly.

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor and HUMENA called on the international community to break their silence and undertake serious actions to retribute the crimes of the occupation and its serious violations of the international law and the international humanitarian law.

The report warned that the silence of the international community after said home demolitions in Wadi al-Hummus – which amounts to a war crime of ethnic cleansing – would essentially encourage the Israeli occupation to continue and escalate the policy of house demolitions and forceful displacement of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. The Israeli policy of handing notifications of imminent demolition to Palestinians in the city continues, especially amidst rumors of Israeli plans to destroy more than 25 Palestinian houses under the pretext lacking permits, which Israel rarely grants to any Palestinian properties in the city.

The report also called on the international community to assume its responsibilities towards protecting East Jerusalem and its Palestinian population as inhabitants of an occupied territory, in accordance with the resolutions of the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, particularly resolution 181.

The two organizations stressed the need for ending the policy of racial discrimination between Palestinians and Israelis through advancing necessary investigations, prosecution and trial procedures to put an end to such violations. They finally called on international organizations concerned with childhood to urgently intervene to protect Palestinian children in East Jerusalem from Israeli arbitrary arrests, summons and house arrests.

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