Separating Children From Parents At US Border "Unconscionable", Says UN

Geneva:  The UN human rights chief on Monday urged Washington to stop separating migrant children from their parents at the US border, describing the policy as "unconscionable".

"The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable," Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said as he opened a session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

The "zero-tolerance" border security policy implemented by President Donald Trump's administration has sparked global outrage.

The government has said that during one recent six-week period nearly 2,000 minors were separated from their parents or adult guardians.

The number of separations has jumped since early May, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that all migrants illegally crossing the US border with Mexico would be arrested, regardless of whether the adults were seeking asylum.

Since children cannot be sent to the facilities where their parents are held, they are separated.

Zeid quoted the American Association of Pediatrics as describing the practice as "government-sanctioned child abuse" which may cause "irreparable harm," with "lifelong consequences".

"I call on the United States to immediately end the practice of forcible separation of these children," he said, urging Washington to ratify the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

The US is the only country that has not ratified the convention.

Ratification, Zeid said, would "ensure that the fundamental rights of all children, whatever their administrative status, will be at the centre of all domestic laws and policies."

Zeid's address at the start of the 38th session of the UN Human Rights Council marks his last address to the body before he is due to step down at the end of August.

The session kicked off under a cloud of growing US criticism of the council. Diplomatic sources said there was a risk that Washington may withdraw from the council altogether.
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The Cuban minister of Culture emphasizes feminine leading role in forum of European Commission

 The minister of Culture of Cuba, Abel Prieto, took part in this capital in a panel summoned by the European Commission, in which it highlighted the social integration of the Cuban woman and, specially, his role in the artistic creation.

As informed today diplomatic sources, the holder was invited by the organizers and he intervened in the titled forum “Cultural heritage and creativity across the lens of the woman”, realized in Belgium in the frame of the European Days of Development.

In his exhibition, the minister tackled also the cultural policy of the Revolution directed to preserve the memory, traditions and identity of the nation, as well as to safeguard the extraordinary cultural heritage.

Along with the Cuban representative, also they took control of other responsible high places as the general manager of International cooperation and Development of the European Union, Stefano Manservisi; and assistant director general of the UNESCO for Matters of Africa, Edouard Matoko.

On the other hand, the minister supported bilateral meetings with different personalities assistants like Matoko, the minister of culture of Burkina Faso, Abdoul Karim Sango and persons in charge of the Headquarter of Cooperation and Development of the European Commission.

The European Days of Development are celebrated from 2006 and summon world leaders, personalities and different actors of the cooperation with the target to discuss development topics, and approximately eight thousand persons help, between participants and visitors.

In accordance with the embassy of Cuba in Belgium, the invitation to the minister Abel Prieto as speaker constitutes a recognition to the politics tackled by the Revolution to integrate the woman in the artistic creation and to preserve the material and immaterial cultural heritage.

The Cuban delegation was integrated also by the vice-minister of the sector, Fernando Rojas; the ambassadress of Cuba in Belgium, Norm Goicochea; and officials of the diplomatic mission.

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US Should Stop Detaining Migrants, Separating Children: United Nations

Geneva: The United Nations called on the United States on Tuesday to stop detaining irregular migrant families and separating children on its frontier with Mexico, saying this broke the law.

Several hundred children crossing the southern U.S. border have been held in custody since October 2017 following an executive order issued by President Donald Trump when he took office in January 2016, it said.

"The U.S. should immediately halt this practice of separating families and stop criminalising what should at most be an administrative offence - that of irregular entry or stay in the U.S.," U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a briefing in Geneva.

"Entering a country without the relevant papers should not be a criminal offence...so these people should not be detained," she said, adding that some children were very young, including a one-year-old infant.

Poverty, as well as deepening violence from criminal gangs and drug traffickers has driven hundreds of thousands of Central Americans to try to cross the U.S. border illegally or seek asylum in the country.

The Trump administration will soon begin fingerprinting parents claiming custody of children who entered the United States illegally without an adult relative, officials said a week ago, prompting criticism that children may be abandoned by those who fear being identified and deported.

Shamdasani, asked about comments by senior U.S. officials that it was normal to remove children from parents in custody, said: "There is nothing normal about detaining children.

"Detention is never in the best interests of the child and always constitutes a child rights violation," she said.

The United States - the only country in the world not to have ratified the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child - still has obligations as a signatory to that treaty and as a party that has ratified other rights treaties, Shamdasani said

"Our position is that preserving family unity is a fundamental tenet of refugee protection," U.N. refugee agency spokesman William Spindler said.

Most crossing the U.S. southern border are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador where there is rampant violence and persecution targetting children and youth, he said.

"The fact that you have people coming from countries experiencing violence and might be subject to persecution by gangs and other criminal violence, would certainly ... give them the right to receive international protection," Spindler said.

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Cuba Ratifies Commitment to Defending Human Rights in Geneva

Cuba's representatives before the United Nations in Geneva reaffirmed today the country's commitment to defending human rights for all, as a fundamental principle of the Cuban Revolution.

'Cuba will continue to fight against all forms of injustice in the world and to achieve true dignification and welfare for human beings,' the mission said in a statement on the occasion of the International Human Rights Day.

According to the text, 'more than five decades of socialist revolution have allowed achieving full and universal enjoyment of all human rights for its people, so there are many reasons to celebrate this day with joy.'

The press release recalled that Cuba is internationally recognized for the progress made in strengthening its free healthcare and education systems, which are accessible to all, the struggle for gender equality and the protection of the environment, among others issues.

'The solidarity and unconditional work of Cuban healthcare collaborators have saved lives or restored the vision to hundreds of thousands of people in the world,' the communiqué said.

'All this has been achieved despite the genocidal policy of economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba, which represents not only a violation of international law, but a flagrant, mass and systematic human rights violation of Cubans,' the text pointed out.

The statement noted that the country has a long history of cooperation with all human rights mechanisms in the international arena that are applied on universal and non-discriminatory basis.

As a member State of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Cuba plays an active role that has materialized in the presentation of resolutions to defend the fundamental basic rights, demonstrating its strong commitment to the implementation of a fairer and equitable human rights system, the text said.

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World Solidarity with Cuba in UN after Scourge of Irma

Ambassadors and diplomats of five continents showed today here its solidarity with Cuba before the devastating step, the end of week, of Hurricane Irma.

By means of telephone calls and the social networks, the Cuban permanent mission before the United Nations has received in the last hours tens of samples of support and disposal to be helped in the middle of the human losses and the lazy ravages largely of its territory.

On Saturday, the chief of office of the Secretary-General of the UN, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, notified to Cuban permanent representative Anayansi Rodríguez the solidarity of the organization and its support in whatever it is necessary.

In this context, the executive director of the World Food Program, David Beasley, will visit countries of the Caribbean Sea affected by Irma, among them the island of Cuba.

Also from New York, where United Nations has its headquarters, messages of breath to Cuba and its people have been transferred.

On the eve, at the beginning of a concert of the Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez in the Central Park, the president of the New York City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, emphasized the support of the island to other Caribbean nations struck by the hurricane.

'Thank you Cuba, now we hope that the same support should be extended to you, after the suffering of these days,' affirmed the official.

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UN investigates reports of up to 80 civilians killed by airstrike in ISIS-held part of Mosul

The UN is investigating reports which say up to 80 civilians have been killed by an airstrike in a terrorist-held part of western Mosul. It also accused the jihadists of killing at least 231 residents attempting to flee the Iraqi city.

The airstrike happened in the Zanjilly neighborhood of the war-torn city on May 31, and is one of several reported incidents in which airstrikes caused civilian deaths in Mosul, the UN Human Rights Office said in a statement on Thursday.

The organization said its Iraqi office was seeking additional information on the incidents and called on the Iraqi Security Forces and the US-led coalition to take all measures to minimize civilian casualties in the ongoing conflict.

READ MORE: 100k children trapped in ISIS-held Mosul, some forced to fight for terrorists – UNICEF

Reuters cited a young man in Mosul, who said he was wounded in an airstrike which hit a group of between 200 and 250 civilians collecting water. The witness said the strike apparently targeted a fighter from the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) who was hiding among them.

The UN also accused the jihadists of escalating the violence against the civilian population trying to flee the parts of Mosul remaining under IS control. It is estimated that since May 26, more than 231 civilians have been killed by IS fighters, with 204 reported deaths occurring over just three days last week.

WATCH MORE PHOTOS FROM MOSUL

The statement cited several instances of such mass killings by IS, which happened recently in the al-Shifa neighborhood, adding that an undetermined number of civilians have gone missing.

“Shooting children as they try to run to safety with their families – there are no words of condemnation strong enough for such despicable acts,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein was cited by the statement as saying.

 
© Ali Arkady/VII/Redux

“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. The victims of such terrible crimes must not be forgotten.”

The Iraqi forces announced a new push two weeks ago to capture several neighborhoods of western Mosul remaining under IS control, with an estimated 200,000 civilians trapped there. According to UNICEF, 100,000 children are living in harrowing conditions in western Mosul, and some of them have been used as soldiers by the jihadists.

The UN high commissioner also called on the Iraqi authorities to investigate any allegations of human rights violations committed by Iraqi Security Forces, without specifying any particular allegations.

It comes after freelance photographer and filmmaker Ali Arkady began to publish footage and images of the torture of prisoners, executions and other crimes allegedly committed by the Iraqi Emergency Response Division (ERD) in December 2016. Arkady said he was embedded with the unit at the time.

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100,000 people displaced by fighting in Raqqa, Syria, since April – UN

Some 100,000 people have been displaced due to heavy fighting near the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, since April this year, a UN human rights chief says. Children are the worst hit, many subjected to torture, sexual violence and executions.

“We need to see a step-change in access to the increasingly dire situation in northeastern Syria…With some 100,000 people displaced due to fighting around Raqqa since April, access is needed now through every possible modality,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien said in a statement to the UN Security Council on Syria on Tuesday. 

According to O’Brien, the protection space is “shrinking, humanitarian conditions are worsening, and the level of despair is rising” across the entire country. In Idlib alone, there are over 900,000 displaced people, he said.

READ MORE: US begins arming Kurdish militia fighting ISIS near Raqqa

This is “not due to insecurity or poor infrastructure, but by increasingly strict limitations by local authorities, non-state-armed groups, as well as terrorist organizations, and the actions of some neighboring countries.”

The city of Raqqa, some 40km from Tabqa Dam, Syria’s largest reservoir, was captured by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) back in 2013. Since then the city has been a scene of heavy battles and numerous offensives.

Clashes and airstrikes have recently intensified near the city as US-backed Syrian rebels reached the northern entrance of Raqqa, AP reported on Tuesday, citing activists.

Airstrikes in mid-May killed nearly two dozen farmworkers in a village in eastern Raqqa, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said earlier in May.

Hussein called on all forces operating in Syria to be more careful to correctly distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilians.

READ MORE: Safe zones in Syria come into force: Here’s what we know about

In the meantime, O’Brien praised efforts of Iran, Russia and Turkey which established a memorandum on the creation of four de-escalation zones which came into force earlier in May.

This “memorandum that stipulates, in no uncertain terms, that fighting must significantly decrease and unhindered humanitarian access be enabled to these four areas,” he said.

‘Children tortured, subjected to sexual violence & executed’

Children remain the worst-affected group of population amid Syrian crisis, O’Brien said, adding that some 7 million children are now living in poverty in the war-torn country.

“Tens of thousands of children have been killed, and for those who have survived till today, the outlook remains bleak,” he said.

According to O’Brien, Syrian children “have been forcibly detained, they have been tortured, subjected to sexual violence, forcibly recruited and in some cases executed.”

READ MORE: Dozens of civilians, incl women & children, killed in US airstrikes in Syria – state media

He reminded that outside the country, Syrian children are “left to face an uncertain and traumatic future on their own”.

“They have become stateless, abandoned by the world,” he said.

“How are these children meant to function as adults? What future do these children have – illiterate, orphaned, starved, traumatized and maimed?” O’Brien said in an emotional plea to the UNSC.

“What future does a country have when its next generation is a lost generation? For these suffering children, what’s at stake isn’t politics. It’s their lives and their futures. It is their innocent voices, their suffering that need advocating,” he added.

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