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News in Brief 3 June 2020

News in Brief 3 June 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

Protect refugees and migrants in COVID-19 pandemic, urges UN chief

More than 70 million vulnerable people are on the move around the world and much more should be done to protect them, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Wednesday.

In an appeal in which the UN chief called for a reassessment of how we support refugees, migrants and the internally displaced, Mr Guterres said that over 150 countries have imposed border restrictions to contain the spread of the virus. 

At least 99 states make no exception for people seeking asylum from persecution amid “skyrocketing xenophobia, racism and stigmatization” linked to fears of infection, he said, at the launch of new UN policy recommendations.

“I am grateful to countries, especially developing countries, that have opened their borders and hearts to refugees and migrants, despite their own social, economic, and now health, challenges…No country can fight the pandemic or manage migration alone. But together, we can contain the spread of the virus, buffer its impact on the most vulnerable and recover better for the benefit of all.”

In addition to the health threat from COVID-19, Mr Guterres warned that it would likely lead to $109 billion drop in remittances that are usually sent to support 800 million people.

Sudan: Khartoum massacre victims and their relatives still waiting for justice

To Sudan now, where UN-appointed independent rights experts have renewed calls for justice for demonstrators, attacked and killed by the country’s military a year ago, ahead of the country’s revolution that saw a civilian and military interim administration installed.

The outrage happened when security forces opened fire on a sit-in in Khartoum, slaying more than 100 protesters and wounding dozens.

Although independent investigation committees have been set up for this and past rights violations, victims and their relatives are still waiting for justice and reparation.

These are essential for the country to progress to a peaceful democracy, the experts said.

Aristide Nononsi, the Independent Expert on the Human Rights situation in Sudan, also highlighted the need to account for violence and sexual attacks against women, who were at the forefront of the protests and among the first victims.

An efficient Transitional Justice Commission is also needed that is not limited to criminal justice, the experts maintained.

They explained that the body must also build social justice by addressing the violations of economic, social and cultural rights that Sudanese people had endured for decades under former President Omar Al-Bashir, who was removed from office last year.

Asia: Bachelet alarmed by clampdown on freedom of expression

Finally, many countries in the Asia-Pacific region have seen an alarming clampdown on freedom of expression during the COVID-19 crisis, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said on Wednesday.

In her appeal to authorities that any action they take to stop the spread of false information should adhere to the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, Ms. Bachelet maintained that “in these times of great uncertainty”, citizens had a right to voice their concerns.

“Medical professionals, journalists, human rights defenders and the general public must be allowed to express opinions on vitally important topics of public interest, such as the provision of health care and the handling of the health and socio-economic crisis, and the distribution of relief items”, she said.

From Bangladesh to Vietnam and from Myanmar to the Philippines, the High Commissioner detailed free speech issues in a dozen countries.

Many of these nations already had laws to stop alleged “fake news” and online media that raised human rights concerns, Ms Bachelet said in a statement.

This legislation had also been used in other contexts to deter legitimate speech, especially public debate, criticism of government policy and suppress freedom of expression, she added.

The High Commissioner’s statement noted that in Myanmar the Kayin State Court had convicted and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, the chief editor of the Dae Pyaw News Agency, charging him with wrongly publishing an article stating that one person died from the virus.

He was arrested, charged, tried, and convicted in under one week after being accused of making a “statement that could cause or incite public fear or mutiny”.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

  • People on the move need protection during pandemic: Guterres
  • Khartoum massacre victims, await justice in Sudan
  • Bachelet alarmed by free speech clampdown in Asia
Audio Credit
Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
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IOM/O. Headon