People's Stories Justice

Recent killings in western Mosul indicative of rising war crimes against civilians
by OHCHR, UN News
8 June 2017
Noting “credible” reports that ISIL/Da''esh fighters killed more than 231 civilians, including women and children, attempting to flee western Mosul over the past two weeks, the United Nations human rights office underscored that attacks on civilians could amount to war crimes.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) – which has been documenting human rights violations and abuses since the start of the military operations to retake Mosul – said that recent reports suggest a “significant escalation” in atrocities against civilians.
“Shooting children as they try to run to safety with their families – there are no words of condemnation strong enough for such despicable acts,” Zeid Ra''ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said in a news release.
“I call on the Iraqi authorities to ensure that those who are responsible for these horrors are held accountable and brought to justice in line with international human rights laws and standards.”
In the most gruesome incident, last Thursday (1 June), ISIL reportedly shot and killed at least 163 civilians, including women, men and children, next to a Pepsi factory in the in al-Shifa neighbourhood. Their bodies were reportedly left on the street for several days following the killings.
An undetermined number of civilians were also reported missing. Those killed and missing were fleeing clashes between ISIL and the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).
In the same neighbourhood, at least 27 people, including 14 women and five children were reportedly killed by ISIL on 26 May, and at least 41 others on 3 June.
Referring to reports of civilian casualties due to recent air strikes in an ISIL-held area of western Mosul, OHCHR called on the ISF and their coalition partners to ensure that their operations comply fully with international humanitarian law and that all possible measures are taken to avoid the loss of civilian lives.
An air strike on 31 May in Zanjilly (an ISIL-held area of western Mosul) reportedly resulted between 50 and 80 civilian deaths.”
5 June, 2017
100,000 children in extreme danger in Mosul. (Reuters)
Some 100,000 children are trapped in extremely dangerous conditions in the remaining ISIL-held enclave in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the United Nations said on Monday.
Children were being used as human shields by the extremists or were caught in the crossfire of the battle, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) said in a statement. Hospitals and clinics had come under attack, it said.
"We are receiving alarming reports of civilians including several children being killed in west Mosul," UNICEF said. "Some were reportedly killed as they desperately tried to flee the fighting which is intensifying by the hour,"
A Reuters TV crew on Saturday saw the bodies of dozens of civilians, including children, lying in a frontline street, apparently killed while fleeing the enclave.
"Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure including hospitals, clinics, schools, homes and water systems should stop immediately," UNICEF said.
June 2017
International community must ensure ''endemic'' impunity in DR Congo brought to an end – UN rights chief.
Voicing concern over lack of progress on the part of Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to undertake credible investigations into widespread allegations of rights violations and abuses in the Kasai Central and Kasai Oriental provinces, the top United Nations human rights official today called for setting up of an international investigation mechanism to look into the situation.
“The crimes committed in the Kasais appear to be of such gravity that they must be of concern to the international community as a whole, and in particular the Human Rights Council,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra''ad Al Hussein, urged the Council today.
“We have an obligation to the victims and a duty to send a message to the perpetrators of these crimes that we are watching and that the international community is throwing its weight behind ensuring that the endemic impunity in the DRC is brought to an end.”
According to a news release issued by the High Commissioner''s Office (OHCHR), since August last year, some 1.3 million people from the two provinces have been displaced within the country and about 30,000 forced to flee to neighbouring Angola.
The release raised particular alarm over the presence of at least 42 mass graves – documented by OHCHR – and reports that many of these were dug by Forces armées de la République démocratique du Congo (FARDC) after clashes with presumed elements of the Kamuina Nsapu militia over the past several months. The actual number of the graves are feared to be higher.
In early May this year, High Commissioner Zeid urged the Government of the DRC to take a series of steps to ensure that a credible, transparent investigation, respecting international standards and with the involvement of OHCHR, be established by 8 June.
However, while the Government sought technical support and advice from OHCHR and the UN mission in the country (known by its French acronym, MONUSCO) the response of national authorities till date falls short, in view of the gravity and widespread nature of the violations and the need to ensure justice for victims, noted the news release.
“It is the sovereign duty of the Government of the DRC to carry out judicial investigations into human rights violations committed on its territory and we will continue to support the Government by providing advice and support towards its fulfilment of these obligations,” noted the High Commissioner, adding: “However, the scale and nature of these human rights violations and abuses, and the consistently inadequate responses of the domestic authorities, oblige us to call for an international investigation to complement national efforts.”

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Towards a recognition of the Right to Land and other Natural Resources
by Geneva Academy, ESCR-Net, agencies
May 2017 (Geneva Academy News)
Our new research brief The Right to Land and Other Natural Resources, co-authored by Dr Chistophe Golay and Dr Adrianna Bessa, summarizes key findings linked to the recognition of the right to land and other natural resources in the context of the current negotiation of a UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas (UN Declaration) at the UN Human Rights Council.
It also presents the protection of this right that exists under international law, addresses its individual and collective dimensions, and describes its core elements.
‘The recognition of this right is of fundamental importance to billions of rural people worldwide’ stress Chistophe Golay and Adrianna Bessa.
This Research Brief will be presented at the 4th session of the intergovernmental working group on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas , which will take place in Geneva from 15 to 19 May 2017. This 4th session will negotiate a new version of the UN Declaration, based on the discussions held in the previous three sessions as well as informal consultations.
Christophe Golay, Research Fellow and Strategic Adviser on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at the Geneva Academy, will participate as an expert in this session. He’s been notably asked to provide expert advice in relation to the preamble, article 1 of the UN Declaration (definition of peasants and other people working in rural areas), article 17 (right to land and other natural resources), article 22 (right to social security), article 23 (right to health), and article 27 (responsibility of the UN and of other international organizations).
‘My participation is a great opportunity to present our research, outline the scope and content of the right to land and other natural resources to negotiators, and respond to their questions or concerns’ underlines Christophe Golay.
Peasants and other people working in rural areas, such as small-scale farmers, fisherfolks, pastoralists, hunters and gatherers, have always used and managed land and other natural resources (water bodies, marine eco-systems, fisheries, pastures and forests) to ensure the sustainability of their livelihood systems and food supplies, to have a place to live in security, peace and dignity, and to develop their customs, traditions and cultural identities.
‘These customary practices have been acknowledged as individual and collective rights by states’ underline the authors, Christophe Golay and Adriana Bessa.
The right to land and other natural resources has been recognized for rural women and indigenous peoples in international human rights law. The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, and the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication, adopted in 2012 and 2014 recognize similar freedoms and entitlements for all peasants, small-scale fishers and their communities, and other people working in rural areas.
‘In drafting the UN Declaration, negotiators should draw upon these guidelines and other international instruments to define the right of peasants and other people working in rural areas to land and natural resources’ stresses Bessa.
The right to land and other natural resources should be defined as the right to physical and economic access to land and natural resources, which are sufficient in quantity and adequate, so that peasants and other people working in rural areas can enjoy an adequate standard of living, have a place to live in security, peace and dignity, and develop their customs, traditions and cultural identities. This right may be exercised alone, in association with others, or as a community.
‘Negotiators should also define states’ obligations in relation to the right to land and other natural resources, including the obligations to respect, protect and fulfil this right’ recalls Golay. ‘States must also ensure that the right to land and natural resources is enjoyed without any discrimination, and on the basis of equality between women and men, and that it is implemented in a sustainable way for both present and future generations’ he concludes.
12 May 2017
Zambia’s peasants at risk of becoming squatters on their own land – UN expert warns
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, today cautioned that many Zambian peasants are at risk of becoming squatters on their own land as Zambia is turned into Southern Africa’s food basket.
“The push to turn commercial large-scale agricultural into a driving engine of the Zambian economy, in a situation where the protection of access to land is weak, can risk pushing small-holder farmers and peasants off their land and out of production with severe impacts on the people’s right to food,” Ms. Elver said at the end of her first official visit to the country.
The expert drew special attention to the fact that in the Zambian dual-model of land tenure tenants on state land enjoy the full protection of their property rights. “However,” she noted, “landholders under customary tenure, affecting around 85% of the land, mostly in hands of peasants, are essentially occupants or users of land and their property and land rights remain unprotected.”
“This situation is particularly alarming since small scale farmers represent 60% of Zambians and at the same time produce 85% of the food for the population,” Ms. Elver pointed out. “These people are generally amongst the poorest of the population, 40% of them live in rural areas and suffer from extreme poverty.”
“Many peasants are forced to work as contract farmers for the larger commercial industrial farms in adverse conditions, or are obliged to sell their products at undervalued prices to monopoly type multinationals who buy farmers’ product for export,” the expert explained.
The Special Rapporteur heard testimonies of comparatively successful small-scale farmers who were still forced to sell their animals in order to pay for their children to go to school. Many small-scale farmers have their children working from as early as the age of six to secure their families’ livelihood.
Ms. Elver noted that the growth in the agriculture sector in Zambia in the last decade has not been inclusive but limited to large scale farmers, leaving the small scale farmers behind. “The agricultural sector has failed to make a dent on poverty levels in the rural areas and as such the model for the strengthening of the agricultural sectors need to be altered,” she said.
“It is imperative that national strategies incorporate human rights principles that include the protection of their access to land and other productive resources in order to protect the county’s traditional food system, small holder farmers and their livelihoods,” the Special Rapporteur urged.
Access to adequate and nutritious food continues to be a challenge across most of the country, with women and children in the rural area faring worst. Many children and their families only eat only one meal of not necessarily nutritious food per day.
A recent study has found that severe acute malnutrition in Zambia comes with a 40% mortality rate, five times the global average due to lack in access to adequate health services as well as to therapeutic foods.
The expert was alarmed to find out that around 40% of children under five are stunted with this figure reaching above 50% in some of the rural provinces, and even higher in refugee camps and the most marginalized rural areas, while the country was enjoying impressive economic growth rates of over 6 per cent per year.
“This is not tolerable since the effects of under-nutrition are irreversible, and lack of access to adequate and nutritious food is having a detrimental effect on future generations and must be addressed as a matter of urgency,” she stressed.
The country’s agricultural development model based on intensive commercial farming has increased rates of deforestation and to bio-diversity loss. It has also increased the use of agro chemicals, including glyphosate, which have a scientifically proven adverse impact on human health, in particular on children.
“It is vital that development plans and policies take into account the true cost of industrial farming methods primarily for its people, but also on soil and water resources, as well as the social and economic impact on people rather than focusing only on short term profitability and economic growth,” Ms. Elver said.

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