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Sunday, June 2, 2024

Quarter of humanity lives in areas hit by violent conflict: UN rights chief

War in Ukraine led to civilian casualties, destruction of ‘shocking magnitude,’ Volker Türk says

A quarter of humanity lives in places hit by violent conflict and it is civilians who suffer the most, the UN rights chief told the Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk cited gang-led violence in Haiti, police violence against Black people in the US, and conflicts in places such as Eritrea, Nicaragua, the Occupied Palestinian Territory, South Sudan, Sudan, and Venezuela.

He said the war in Ukraine has led to civilian casualties and destruction of a “shocking magnitude.”

“The rights of Ukrainians will be harmed for generations to come, and the war’s impact on fuel and food prices, as well as geopolitical tensions, are impacting negatively on people in every region of the world,” he added.

Turk said such worldwide damage due to warfare in Europe betrays the promises of “transformative change” made at the foundation of the UN more than 75 years ago.

The UN rights chief said that he is “deeply concerned” by trends in Russia.

“The closures of the newspaper Novaya Gazeta and the Moscow Helsinki Groups are another sign of the demise of Russia’s civic space,” he said.

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“Constant pro-war messages on state media feed stereotypes and incite hatred and violence. Over 180 criminal cases have been opened on charges related to alleged defamation of the Armed Forces,” he added.

– 12 years of war in Syria

“Twelve long years of excruciating bloodshed: Syria is a microcosm of the wounds inflicted by utmost contempt for human rights,” Turk said.

“Last month’s earthquakes have added to this tragedy. The only way forward must be through respect for human rights and proper accountability of all those who have committed atrocity crimes – both of which Syria has long lacked,” he added.

The UN rights chief said that security in central Mali is “particularly alarming” in the border area between Burkina Faso, Mali, and Nige with numerous armed groups capitalizing on inter-communal hostility and the absence of state authorities to expand influence and attack civilians.

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Armed non-state groups have perpetrated most violations and abuses, he added.

“Serious violations have also been committed by the Malian Armed Forces, in some instances accompanied by foreign military and security personnel,” Turk said.

– Contempt for women

Turk was “shocked” by the contempt for women, and women’s equality by some so-called “influencers,” which he said is “feeding social attitudes that make it possible to ignore, or even condone, gender-based violence.”

“Women and girls’ rights to make choices about their lives and participate in public life have been, or are being, eliminated,” he added.

In Iran, Turk said authorities must urgently act on protesters’ demands, particularly women and girls.

“I remain deeply concerned about 17 protestors who have reportedly been sentenced to death; 4 have been executed so far, and more than 100 currently face charges that carry the death penalty,” Turk said.

He said that some recently announced pardons are a “welcome first step.”