This is the news in brief from the United Nations.
Repeal of Guatemala ‘reconciliation law’ would lead to amnesty for rights violators: Bachelet
A bid to give amnesty to all those responsible for crimes during Guatemala’s decades-long civil war, could represent a “drastic set-back” to the rule of law and accountability, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet has said.
In a statement on Tuesday, the High Commissioner expressed her “serious concern” that the Guatemalan Congress had taken steps to approve an amendment to legislation that has been in force since the 1996 peace accords that ended 36 years of clashes.
If adopted, the amendment will see dozens of people in jail for enforced disappearances, summary executions, sexual violence and torture freed within 24 hours.
Ongoing investigations into abuse will also be halted, Ms Bachelet continued, warning that such a move risked reopening “old wounds” and in addition, would “destroy victims’ trust in the State and its institutions”.
Before the amendment can be adopted, Congress must approve it after three separate readings.
Some 200,000 people are estimated to have died during Guatemala’s civil war, according to the UN human rights office, OHCHR.
In November, it welcomed the conviction of a former Guatemalan soldier involved in the infamous Dos Erres massacre of indigenous Maya villagers.
OHCHR said that the ruling against Santos López Alonso was “an important step” for transitional justice in Guatemala, although he was one of only six military personnel to have been convicted, amid the frequent use of injunctions to stall the trials of high-level officials.
Mediterranean migrant drownings should spur European States’ solidarity, urge UN agencies
A spate of migrant shipwrecks and rescues in the Mediterranean Sea in recent days is evidence that urgent action is required from Europe to help, the UN said on Tuesday.
The warning from UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN Migration Agency (IOM) comes after close to 170 people are believed to have drowned in separate tragedies off the Libyan and Moroccan coast late last week.
In one incident last Friday, more than 100 people are believed to have died in Libyan waters, where the coastguard has reportedly been grounded, because of fuel shortages.
Here’s IOM spokesperson Joel Millman:
“Three men were rescued 50 miles off Libya from a sinking boat by an Italian Navy helicopter and brought to Lampedusa, Italy. IOM staff spoke to the three survivors who said the boat carried 120 people on board. Based on their testimony, IOM estimates that 117 people went missing and presumably drowned at sea before rescue services could reach them. According to the survivors, 10 women, one of them pregnant, and two children were on board.”
In a related development, IOM reported that nearly 150 migrants had been “returned” to Libya and placed in custody, after being rescued by a cargo ship.
UNHCR confirmed that migrants and refugees held in Libya suffered terribly in official and unofficial detention centres, with many reporting going hungry “for days on end”.
Libya has “no safe port for docking rescued passengers” the agency has insisted, before calling for a coordinated, multi-state policy from European governments to help desperate people on the move.
Human rights must be bedrock of “Globalization 4.0”, UN experts tell Davos leaders
And finally, to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, where a UN-appointed panel has urged global leaders to put the rights of disadvantaged people first in their discussions.
The appeal from the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights comes as the annual gathering in the Swiss ski resort tackles this year’s theme, which is how best to manage the challenges of our digital age.
In a statement, the UN panel’s Chair, Surya Deva, called for “all business enterprises to respect human rights throughout their operations”, as they appeared to be “absent from discussions at Davos on how to reshape globalization”.
Unless human rights are “fully integrated” into discussions, the conclusions will simply repeat the failings of the previous versions of globalization,” Mr Deva added, before noting that an authoritative framework on the subject already exists in the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.