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News in Brief 28 September 2020

News in Brief 28 September 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

Eviction of New Delhi’s track dwellers must be halted, urges rights expert

The eviction of up to 250,000 people living alongside railway lines in New Delhi may amount to a “denial of justice” – and it could also violate India’s obligations under key international rights treaties, a UN-appointed independent rights expert said on Monday.

The development follows the Supreme Court’s eviction order issued in August for around 48,000 households whose shacks line the tracks.

Balakrishnan Rajagopal, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, said that none of those who stood to be affected appeared to have been consulted by the Court before it issued the ruling.

In a statement Mr. Rajagopal cited article 2.3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; it states that anyone can seek judicial assistance against decisions regarded as arbitrary. 

Although the rights expert welcomed the Court’s decision to temporarily halt the eviction for four weeks, he said that this was insufficient time to relocate all those affected.

Yemen’s warring parties agree to free more than 1,000 prisoners

The release of more than 1,000 prisoners held as part of the conflict in Yemen could pave the way for further positive developments for the people of the war-torn country, the UN Special Envoy overseeing the deal has said.

Speaking after representatives from the Yemen Government and the opposition signed the prisoner-release agreement on Sunday in Switzerland, Martin Griffiths told UN News that both parties had expressed a desire to meet again soon to discuss further moves.

“It is a political moment as well as a humanitarian moment…the fact that the parties were willing to sit down here together to make the concessions that any negotiation requires and to go public with a very important measure shows that they do have the will to negotiate and that I hope is a will that we can translate into negotiations into negotiations in the wider conflict.”

Mr Griffiths said that his immediate priorities also included reaching an agreement on a national ceasefire, for which negotiations began six months ago.

It remains key that the country’s roads, airports, ports and schools can reopen and for Yemenis to be able to trade once again, the UN negotiator said, at the end of the week-long meeting, co-hosted by the Red Cross.

Nigerian authorities urged to release singer musician after WhatsApp ‘blasphemy’

Nigerian authorities have been urged to intervene after a singer was sentenced to death for performing an allegedly blasphemous song and sharing it on social media.

Yahaya Sharif-Aminuhe, who is 22, received the death penalty in August from a Sharia court in northern Kano province.

Mr Sharif-Aminuhe was convicted of sharing his song on WhatsApp, which at the time led to local politicians calling for his execution. 

A mob also burned down the artist’s family home in March and he has received death threats, UN-appointed independent rights experts said on Monday. 

In a statement, they expressed concerns over reports that he has been held incommunicado and that he did not have access to a lawyer.

UN Special Rapporteur Karima Bennoune also said that applying the death penalty for sharing a song on the internet was “a flagrant violation of international human rights law” and of Nigeria’s constitution.

The human rights experts called for the death sentence to be overturned and for authorities to guarantee his safety and right to due process, while he appeals the verdict.

‘Eyes and ears’ of Human Rights Council faces funding crisis

The work of UN-appointed independent rights experts is at risk from a critical lack of funding, they warned on Monday.

In an appeal for Member States to help, they said that financing their work adequately had been a concern for several years, and that the COVID-19 crisis had made their work even more difficult.

Today, Member States have only paid about 60 per cent of their commitments to the United Nations regular budget.

As a result, some experts are unable to carry out their mandates properly, the Special Procedures coordination committee said in a statement, describing rights experts as the “eyes and ears” of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Their work includes making country visits to engage State representatives and civil society, meeting victims of rights violations and making concrete recommendations to assist States in fulfilling their human rights obligations, they added.

The experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary. They are also independent from any government or organization.

The Human Rights Council’s Special Procedures bodies include the 56 mandates that cover international human rights; these include violations of the rights of communities and populations historically subjected to discrimination.

Daniel Johnson, UN News.

  • Delhi track dwellers must not be evicted, warn rights experts
  • Rapporteurs' investigations hit by UN cash crunch
  • Largest prisoner release agreed in Yemen talks
  • Nigeria urged to overturn death penalty for 'blasphemous' singer
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Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
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Sandeep Datta