Friday, August 19, 2011

UN: Office of the High Commissioner: Pakistan: Journalists: Forced Disappearances

Since 2007, OHCHR has received numerous reports of abductions, disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Pakistan. 

In the past eight days alone, we have received reports on the killing of one journalist, Munir Shakir, in Baluchistan on 14 August 2011, and the disappearance of another journalist, Rehmatullah Darpakhel, three days earlier in North Waziristan on 11 August.

In March, the High Commissioner spoke out about the escalating trend of journalists, human rights defenders, and political activists in Baluchistan.

We call on all responsible parties to immediately stop such violations of human rights, and we urge the Government to take immediate steps to independently investigate these cases.

In response to a follow-up question about numbers of journalists killed and abducted:

Pakistan is cited by various journalist groups as one of the most dangerous if not the most dangerous place for journalists, with at least 16 killed in 2010. 

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 9 journalists have been killed in Pakistan so far in 2011 and none of the cases have been fully investigated.

In Baluchistan alone, there were disturbing reports that 25 people,including journalists, writers, and human rights defenders,have been extrajudicially killed within the first four months of 2011.

In June 2011, a report on Baluchistan by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan revealed 143 cases of disappearances, including journalists, as of May 2011. 

The same report indicated a list of 140 missing persons, including journalists, found dead in Baluchistan between July 2010 and May 2011, which is a very large number indeed.


Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Rupert Colville, Geneva

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Amal Mathluthi: My Word is Free

"I am those who are free and never fear, I am the secrets that will never die, I am the voice of those who would not give in, I am the meaning amid the chaos." 
- Amal Mathluthi - My Word is Free, Tunisia
January 14, 2011, Tunisia - Above the noise of the crowd, she sings for freedom. She says she is the secret of the red rose who calls the freemen. Whatever their faith, may God bless all those who seek their freedom throughout the world. And who sometimes have to fight for it. The language doesn't matter, listen to the spirit in the song.
I didn't know her name at the time, but I recognized the voice. It's the voice of freedom.

Amal Mathluthi - My Word is Free (Kelmti Horra)

I am those who are free and never fear
I am the secrets that will never die
I am the voice of those who would not give in
I am the meaning amid the chaos

I am the right of the oppressed
That is sold by these dogs (people who are dogs)
Who rob the people of their daily bread
And slam the door in the face of ideas

I am those who are free and never fear
I am the secrets that will never die
I am the voice those who would not give in
I am free and my word is free
I am free and my word is free
Don't forget the price of bread
And don't forget the cause of our misery
And don't forget who betrayed us in our time of need

I am those who are free and never fear
I am the secrets that will never die
I am the voice those who would not give in
I am the secret of the red rose
Whose color the years loved
Whose scent the rivers buried
And who sprouted as fire
Calling those who are free

I am a star shining in the darkness
I am a thorn in the throat of the oppressor
I am a wind touched by fire
I am the soul of those who are not forgotten
I am the voice of those who have not died

Let's make clay out of steel
And build with it a new love
That becomes birds
That becomes a country/home
That becomes wind and rain

I am all the free people of the world put together
I am like a bullet
I am all the free people of the world put together
I am like a bullet

Pendent le bàl african du 13 Julliet à Bastille

Sunday, August 14, 2011

World Food Programme and The Horn of Africa

• WFP is rapidly moving life-saving food and nutritional products by sea, air and road to hungry populations in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda and Djibouti to address the needs of the most vulnerable, especially young children and their mothers.

Young Girl Treated For Malnutrition At Ifo Hospital In Dadaab

• WFP is providing the right foods at the right time to prevent malnutrition in the first two years of life, which can lead to irreversible damage to children’s minds and bodies.

• WFP is working to strengthen the resilience of communities that live in drought-prone areas, working with governments and other agencies, using food assistance to support smallholder farmers and helping people to adapt to changes in weather patterns.


• More than 11 million people need WFP food assistance in five countries.

• In Somalia, WFP is planning to feed 1.5 million people, including 300,000 in and around Mogadishu.

WFP Food Aid At Dagahaley Camp In Dadaab

• WFP is looking at ways to reach a further 2.2 million in areas of the south that have been inaccessible since January 2010.

• WFP is reaching 3.7 million people in Ethiopia (including 226,000 refugees.)

• WFP is targeting 2.7 million people in Kenya (including 496,000 refugees.)

• WFP is also working in the Karamoja region of Uganda reaching 700,000 and in Djibouti (109,000.)

Refugees At Wajadir Line Up To Receive A Hot Meal

• The budget shortfall for WFP’s Horn of Africa operation for the next six months, taking pledges and confirmed contributions into account, is US $250 million.

• Operations in Somalia are among the highest risk in the world, with the loss of the lives of 14 relief workers since 2008.

• WFP is also providing emergency food assistance to 238,000 refugees, bringing the total number of people receiving food assistance in Ethiopia to 3.7 million.

Josette Sheeran And Kevin Rudd At A Temporary Registration Camp In Dolo, Somalia

• WFP is feeding 1.8 million people in Kenya (including 496,000 refugees). With additional resources and expected arrivals of commodities, Kenya CO will scale up to 2.7 million people in the coming weeks. The government of Kenya is feeding an additional 800,000.

• WFP is implementing blanket supplementary feeding for all children below 3 years in six Kenyan districts where malnutrition rates have been found to be well above the emergency threshold.

• Existing food and cash-for-asset activities to help people to be to be more resilient to future droughts have been scaled up to reach 760,000 people in arid areas.

• WFP is providing food assistance to about 496,000 refugees in Kenya. Approximately 417,000 are in Dadaab, near the Somalia border and about 80,000 in Kakuma (which hosts refugees from Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia.)

• WFP is scaling up general food distributions to around 100,000 people from this
month, increasing to 109,000 in September when schools re-open.

Arriving In Dadaab 6

WFP will pursue efforts to mitigate risk, including thorough, robust assessments and monitoring, but we are calling on the international community to stand together in recognising the inevitable risks that will be present.

Easy ways to help


  • In the USA: Donate $10 to our efforts in the Horn of Africa by texting the word AID to this number: 27722
  • In Canada: Donate $5 to our efforts in the Horn of Africa by texting the word RELIEF to this number: 45678
  • In the UK: Donate £3 to our efforts in the Horn of Africa by texting the word AID to this number: 70303 
  • Place a donation banner on your site or blog. Choose from the selection we have here: Banner selection  

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    UN: Office of the High Commissioner: Freedom of opinion and expression

    28 July 2011

    Freedom of opinion and expression – how far the protections go: the UN Human Rights Committee

    GENEVA – The UN Human Rights Committee has issued an authoritative new commentary* on one of the most challenged and sensitive topics in international human rights law – the extent to which the freedom of opinion and expression can be restricted by a state.

    The General Comment by the Committee addresses the legality of restrictions, including blasphemy laws, “memory” laws, laws on such matters as treason, counter-terrorism, lese majeste, desacato, defamation of the head of state and the protection of honour of public officials. 

    The General Comment also clearly confirms the extension of freedom of expression protections to new media actors, including bloggers.

    “The General Comment is a comprehensive response to numerous requests from lawmakers, judges, prosecutors, lawyers, rights defenders and even journalists asking for clarification on many of the issues covered by the rights to freedom of expression and opinion,” said Committee member Michael O'Flaherty, the principal drafter of the General Comment.

    “It is a strong reaffirmation of the central importance for all human rights of the freedom of expression and sets out the very strict parameters within which the right can be restricted by states.”

    The General Comment states that “memory laws”, which penalise the expression of opinions about historical facts, are unacceptable under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. 

    Blasphemy laws are incompatible with the Covenant, except under very specific circumstances subject to strict requirements set out in the Covenant.

    It also offers the most comprehensive analysis yet in international human rights law of a right of access to information held by public bodies. It stresses the duty of States to foster a strong, free and plural media as well as access to new media information platforms.

    "Freedom of expression is a necessary condition for the realisation of the principles of transparency and accountability that are, in turn, essential for the promotion and protection of human rights," the General Comment states.

    “States parties should put in place effective measures to protect against attacks aimed at silencing those exercising their right to freedom of expression.”

    Human Rights Committee

    For more information, media requests:

    Ravina Shamdasani  

    Xabier Celaya
    + 41 22 917 9383 /

    UN: Office of the High Commissioner: Gaza and Palestine


    28 July 2011

    AMMAN – The Special Committee to investigate Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the territories occupied since 1967* following visits to Gaza and Amman expressed dismay at Israel’s continuing disregard of its obligations under international law.

    For the first time since it was established in 1968 the Special Committee was able to visit Gaza. The Government of Egypt facilitated the visit via the border crossing at Rafah.  

    “Unfortunately, what we found was that the oppressive restrictions imposed on Gaza by Israel have the effect of collectively punishing the population,” noted the Committee.  

    “With around 35% of Gaza’s land area excluded from agriculture due to Israel’s vague ‘buffer zone’ along the border, and its fishing areas limited to only three nautical miles from the coast (85% of fisheries), the people of Gaza could hardly feed themselves, much less revive a decimated economy through exports.  

    We were alarmed by allegations that Israel enforces these policies employing live fire, including in some instances against children and the elderly.”

    “Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza contravenes the human rights of the people of Gaza and international humanitarian law and standards,” said Ambassador Palitha T.B. Kohona, Chairman of the Committee. “It is oppressive and diminishes the lives of the people of Gaza and must be ended now,” he stressed.

    In Gaza, the Committee listened to victims, witnesses and United Nations officials who underlined the dire impact on human rights of the Israeli blockade.  

    Homes, schools and other infrastructure that were destroyed by Israeli attacks in December 2008 and January 2009 could not be rebuilt due to restrictions on the import of building material. 

    The economy declined significantly and is sustained by illegal imports through tunnels.  “It would be the occupying power’s responsibility to assist with the reconstruction of Gaza,” noted the Committee. 
    “Beyond homes, schools, businesses that were destroyed, there is an urgent need for water treatment facilities, road, sewage treatment and the restoration of power.” 

    “For many of Gaza’s children, life is difficult and the future is hopeless,” the Committee noted, referring to testimony concerning worrying health, psychological and social problems, increasing school drop out rates, and an increasing incidence of child labor.  

    The Committee continued, “We hope the Government of Israel will seriously consider the potential consequences of a generation of Gazan children being raised in an environment of near-total deprivation and a lack of opportunities to lead a productive and hopeful life.”  

    The policies and practices of the Government of Israel which violate the rights of Palestinian children was a constant theme throughout the Committee’s hearings.  

    Witnesses and officials reported that Palestinian children’s access to education is being impeded through, among other things, restrictions on freedom of movement, constraints on access due to the Wall, a lack of schools – especially in East Jerusalem and Gaza, and threats and actual violence by Israeli settlers.  

    The Committee’s attention was drawn to the large number children detained, and in this regard a range of practices of serious concern, including harsh interrogation techniques, torture, and expulsion from their villages.  

    The Committee underlined its “deep concern regarding reports that Israeli security forces are raiding Palestinian homes in the middle hours of the night to detain children, allegedly as young as seven years old.”  

    “Even more distressing are reports that children are being subjected to ill-treatments, taken before military courts, and often made to sign confessions under duress,” the Committee noted.  

    The Committee referred to the expulsion of children from their homes, by Israeli courts, as “profoundly worrying and impermissible under international law.”

    The Special Committee’s 9-day investigative visit to the region also included meetings in Amman, where it met with victims, witnesses and officials working on human rights in the West Bank and the Syrian Golan Heights.  

    A frequent concern communicated throughout the visit related to the situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israel.  In this regard, Israel’s restrictions on family visits; denial of the right to education as of recent months; poor conditions of detention; lack of appropriate medical attention; extended detention without charges; and patterns of ill-treatment and torture while in detention comprise the main concerns.  

    “The fact that the Government of Israel continues to hold around 6,000 Palestinians in prisons inside Israel, some for over twenty years, merits closer attention from the international community,” said the Committee. 

    The members continued, “These prisoners and their families are suffering deeply.  The ill-treatment of women at border crossings and in Israeli prisons raises serious concerns.”

    Witnesses updated the Committee regarding ongoing, systematic and widespread Israeli policies and practices in the West Bank, in particular East Jerusalem, such as the confiscation of Palestinian land, the arbitrary demolition of Palestinian homes and properties, restrictions on freedom of movement for Palestinians, and the expansion of Israeli settlements.  

    Several witnesses provided testimony regarding increasingly frequent acts of violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and their lands and crops.  

    The Committee noted that “The violence by Israel settlers against Palestinians, especially against children, and their lands, in particular the destruction of crops, is appalling.  It is plainly criminal behavior and the Israeli authorities must take measures to prevent and punish such behavior.”

    Witnesses from the Golan Heights emphasized that Israel has continued its illegal policies and practices.  

    Poor conditions of detention and a lack of family visits for prisoners, discriminatory access to water, especially for agricultural purposes, and the separation of families were highlighted as persistent concerns.  

    Several witnesses raised concerns regarding the Israeli Defense Forces’ excessive use of force in response to protests on Nakba Day and on 5 June 2011, which resulted in deaths and injuries.  

    They also noted with regret that Israel is currently confiscating land to build an eight meter separation wall between the Golan Heights and the rest of Syria.
    In its report to the sixty-sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly in November 2011, the Special Committee will provide an in-depth review of its main observations following the mission, and will make detailed recommendations to improve respect for human rights in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

    OHCHR Country Page: Israel

    OHCHR Country Page – Occupied PalestinianTerritories

    Information, media requests, Kevin Turner
    +41 79 444 40078 /

    UN Human Rights:


    Wednesday, July 27, 2011

    Wednesday, July 20, 2011

    The Buffalo Infringement Festival 2011: July 28th - August 7th

    11 Days of Art Under the Radar

    1200 performances!
    52 venues
    50 visual artists
    190 musical acts
    24 films/videos
    90 performance projects including:
    20 dances troupes/performers
    35 theater groups/performers
    27 poetry/ spoken word

    The Buffalo Infringement Festival is an 11 day celebration of art of all kinds. It takes place in over 50 venues centered in Allentown and spans across the whole city of Buffalo.  

    Artists perform in the usual venues and take over the streets of Allentown and the Elmwood Village.

    There are 1200 performances and events scheduled in dance, theater, music, poetry, film, and visual installations.

    In its 7th year, Infringement has grown tremendously from under 50 proposals in 2005, to 350 this year. Just about every artist in Buffalo takes part in the festival somehow and this year has 30 out- of - town acts coming to perform. 

    The majority are musical acts but the festival’s roots come from theater. It has expanded to include every artist genre from the extremely edgy art performances to family friendly shows.

    There are many group shows planned including the 9th Annual College Street Block Party, Infringement Circus at Merge, and the Broadway Market Extravaganza. 

    Squeeky Wheel is hosting a film fest, Subversive Theater presents at Manny Fried, Volume at the Vault, Burlesque at Nietzsches, Bike In Movie Night, Brownman Electryc Trio Summit, Filigrees Art Night, Party at the Pearl, Welcome to Slyboots, Zombie Party and more!

    Infringement is the focal point of the summer for many Buffalonians. Its just as easy to find a comfortable performance as to see things you never thought possible. 

    Take the week off and consume yourself in Buffalo's largest art festival!

    The schedule is available at and will be in print as an insert in the Artvoice on July 28th.


    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Israeli Navy Takes Dignite/Al Karama in International Waters

    Earlier today [July 19, 2011], the Israeli navy took control of the one boat from Freedom Flotilla II that had made it into international waters on their way to Gaza. The French-flagged boat - Dignite/Al Karama - carried 16 people from France, Canada, Greece, Sweden and Tunisia. They were stopped about 40 miles away from Gaza and after several hours the Israelis took control of the boat, bringing it to the Israeli port of Ashdod.
    There are no reports of any injuries and we have heard the passengers were being arrested. We do not yet know how long they will be detained or what will happen to the boat.
    We urge you to contact the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC to call for the immediate release of these people.  

    Most important, we must call on the Israeli government to end the siege and blockade of Gaza, and to treat the people of Palestine in compliance with international law!
    Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC
    • Ph: 202-364-5500
    • F:   202-364-5423
    • Dignite, Huwaida Arraf 
    • 202-294-8813
    • U.S. Boat to Gaza, Felice Gelman 
    • 917-912-2597

    Thursday, July 14, 2011

    Pillay opens UN Human Rights Office in Tunisia: OHCHR-Geneva

    French, Arabic version:

    It is a great pleasure and honour to be opening a UN human rights office for the first time in history in Tunisia.  

    It is the first UN human rights office in any of the five North African countries bordering the Mediterranean. 

    I would therefore like to thank the people and government of Tunisia for pioneering human rights in this region.

    High Commissioners for Human Rights have been trying to set up an office in this region for years. Most countries were careful not to say an outright “No.” But none of them was remotely close to an outright “Yes,” until the people of Tunisia decided to radically alter the priorities.

    All that changed in December and January, when the people of Tunisia said, in effect: “Enough. We deserve our rights, we want our rights and we are going to have our rights.”

    The whole world watched with amazement and growing respect as Tunisians kept demanding your rights, refusing to be cowed by the repression, the arrests, the torture and all the injuries and tragic loss of life that occurred as Ben Ali’s regime fought unsuccessfully for its survival.

    In the past three weeks, Tunisia has ratified no fewer than four extremely important treaties, including three in a single day: 

    The Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which make those two key human rights treaties much easier to monitor and enforce; and the UN Convention on Enforced Disappearances. All three of these were ratified on 29 June.

    A week earlier, on 24 June, Tunisia became the 116th state to ratify the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court, and the first in North Africa. 

    This represents a powerful commitment by the new authorities that no future serious violations of human rights will take place with impunity. Ratifying the Rome Statute is one of the best deterrents to serious crimes.

    Tunisia is the first country in the Arab world to legally enshrine gender parity in the electoral rolls for the upcoming election.

    Tunisia has become a common reference for all human rights defenders, as human dignity and human rights form the heart of the lesson delivered through Tunisia’s revolution. No clearer expression of that can be found than in the essential message of the Tunisian poet, Abū al-Qāsim al-Shābi:

    “If, one day, a people desires to live, surely fate shall heed their call.  And their night will then begin to fade, and their chains break and fall.”

    Olive trees are a potent symbol in all Mediterranean countries. They symbolize peace, and are renowned for their endurance. They can take as many as 20 years to bear fruit, but once established, they thrive in both fertile and stony ground. 

    They survive hot summers and cold winters. Like human rights, they are virtually indestructible. Even when they are cut down, or burned, new shoots sprout from the roots. They can live for thousands of years. 

    I therefore hope that the olive tree I am going to plant here today will reflect the advent of a new era of human rights and democracy in Tunisia. And that, 2,000 years from now both this tree and Tunisia can look back on 2011 as the magical year when it all began.

    Thank you.

    UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
    Navi Pillay

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    The Oslo Freedom Forum: Dawn of a New Arab World PT. II

    Part I of the Oslo Freedom Forum is HERE

    The 2011 Oslo Freedom Forum brought together dissidents and activists from around the world to share their stories.  All presentations from the 2011 Oslo Freedom Forum are now available via YouTube, including new videos from:

    The 2009 and 2010 conferences are available, including speeches from:

    The Oslo Freedom Forum was founded to address today's most challenging humanitarian issues. Each year individuals from academia, advocacy, business, media, politics, social entrepreneurship, and technology collaborate on how best to make an impact on the world around us. 

    Attention is drawn to issues that matter, inspire action, and shed light on the extraordinary work of innovators across the globe.

    Share the talks from these remarkable individuals with friends, colleagues, and family. 

    If you would like to interview any of the activists, coordinate an appointment:

    Thor Halvorssen 
    Founder, CEO Oslo Freedom Forum
    Twitter @OsloFreedomFrm 

    The 2012 Oslo Freedom Forum, will be held on May 7, 8, and 9.