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News in Brief 15 October 2020

News in Brief 15 October 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations. 

Rape is monstrous but death penalty not the answer: UN rights chief 

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has called on governments worldwide to redouble their efforts to prevent rape and other forms of sexual violence. 

She also appealed for a rights-based approach to prosecution, after highlighting a new law in northwest Nigeria which allows surgical castration for male rapists and the death penalty where the victim is under 14. 

“Tempting as it may be to impose draconian punishments on those who carry out such monstrous acts, we must not allow ourselves to commit further violations”, she said in a statement. 

The development follows numerous rapes reported around the world in recent weeks, including in Algeria, Bangladesh, India, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan and Tunisia. 

People have “rightly been outraged and are demanding justice for the victims and measures to prevent such assaults from happening again”, Ms. Bachelet noted, in an appeal for greater assistance for victims, prompt criminal investigations and prosecutions.   

“I share the outrage and stand in solidarity with the survivors, and with those demanding justice. But I am concerned that there are also calls – and in some places laws already being adopted – bringing in cruel and inhuman punishments and the death penalty for perpetrators. The main argument being made for the death penalty is for it to deter rape – but in fact there is no evidence that the death penalty deters crime more than other forms of punishment. Evidence shows that the certainty of punishment, rather than its severity, deters crime.” 

The death penalty or other measures such as surgical sterilization of perpetrators “will not resolve” the barriers victims of sexual violence face in accessing justice, Ms. Bachelet said.  

Billions can’t wash hands properly, one billion at immediate COVID risk 

A staggering warning now from the UN Children’s Fund UNICEF: three billion people are unable to wash their hands properly at home; and one billion are “at immediate risk of catching COVID-19 because they lack basic handwashing facilities”. 

Washing your hands with soap is key to preventing infectious diseases, not just the new coronavirus, UNICEF said on Thursday, which is Global Handwashing Day. 

In an appeal for urgent action to address the issue, the UN agency said that it was unacceptable that the most vulnerable communities lacked “the simplest of methods” to protect themselves.  

The one billion people said to be at “immediate” risk are children and families living in informal settlements, migrant and refugee camps, or in areas of active conflict, UNICEF explained. 

It cited data showing that the problem is worst in least developed countries, where nearly three in four people lack basic handwashing facilities at home. 

In the world’s poorest countries, seven in 10 schools have nowhere for children to wash their hands with water and soap. 

And in sub-Saharan Africa, more than six in 10 people in urban areas - or 258 million people - lack access to proper handwashing.  

Rights experts urge UAE to halt repatriation of Yemeni nationals 

The repatriation of 18 Yemeni nationals previously held at Guantanamo Bay United States military prison should be halted, as their lives could be in danger, UN-appointed rights experts said on Thursday. 

In an appeal to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where the Yemeni men were resettled after their release, the independent experts cautioned that “their forced return (to Yemen would) put their lives at risk”. 

After more than five years of fighting, Yemen’s armed conflict has created one of the world’s worst humanitarian emergencies. 

The fact that non-State armed actors control parts of the country “does not allow the provision nor compliance with diplomatic assurances”, the experts said, adding that such assurances “where provided, do not release States from their international obligations …in particular the principle of non-refoulement”. 

The experts also noted with concern that that the men faced “continuous arbitrary detention at an undisclosed location” in the UAE. They were allegedly forced to sign documents agreeing to their repatriation, the experts said, or else “remain indefinitely in Emirati detention…without charge or trial”.  

They also insisted that no State has the right to expel, return or otherwise remove any individual from its territory whenever there were “substantial grounds” to believe that the person would be in danger of torture in the State of destination.  

Daniel Johnson, UN News. 

  • Rape is monstrous but death penalty not the answer: UN rights chief 

  • Billions can’t wash hands properly, one billion at immediate COVID risk 

  • Rights experts urge UAE to halt repatriation of Yemeni nationals 

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Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
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