This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Rights chief Bachelet echoes condemnation of incitement in US Capitol chaos
The High Commissioner for Human Rights has echoed concerns voiced by the UN Secretary-General about mob violence at the US Capitol building on Wednesday which temporarily disrupted the confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden.
Condemning what she characterised as the “destructive impact of sustained, deliberate distortion of facts, and incitement to violence and hatred by political leaders”, Michelle Bachelet said that electoral fraud allegations had been made “to try to undermine the right to political participation”.
The UN rights chief added that she was encouraged to see that senators had been able to resume their work.
She called on political leaders – “including the President of the United States, to disavow false and dangerous narratives, and encourage their supporters to do so as well”.
At a scheduled press briefing in Geneva on Friday, spokesperson for the High Commissioner, Ravina Shamdasani, called out the “inciteful rhetoric” that had encouraged supporters of President Trump to storm the US Capitol:
“We are concerned that some of the protesters were clearly displaying symbols of racist and ethnic hatred and white supremacy including the Confederate flag; clothes displaying anti-Semitic labels and a noose erected from across the Capitol. We condemn this display of overtly racist symbols and we call on all the political leaders to also condemn the use of overtly racist symbols.”
Mass displacement amid Central African Republic election violence
To the Central African Republic (CAR), where more than 200,000 people have fled their homes amid post-election violence.
Raising the alert, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said that at least 30,000 had fled into neighbouring Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of Congo.
Tens of thousands more have been displaced inside the country, although many have already returned home, said UNHCR spokesperson Boris Cheshirkov:
“The reasons why they move have been several, most are linked to the fear of violence and also as a preventative measure…we have had reports that they’ve been staying nearby home as a preventative measure until situation calms…they reported they did witness violence and fled…for the governments that are receiving they have issues they are dealing with already…the need to be provided with assistance is there.”
Mr. Cheshirkov expressed concern over reports of human rights violations inside CAR linked to the December 27 presidential elections, while UNHCR urged governments in all neighbouring countries to continue granting asylum and to support local authorities to register new arrivals.
Vietnam arrests of journalists ‘part of clampdown on freedom of expression’
To Viet Nam, now, where the UN human rights office, OHCHR, has highlighted a growing number of arrests of journalists, bloggers, commentators and rights defenders, many of whom are being “kept incommunicado” in pre-trial detention.
The move is part of an “increasing clampdown” on the freedom of expression on the grounds of national security offences, OHCHR said in a statement.
Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani noted that three senior members of the Independent Journalists Association of Viet Nam were convicted on 5 January this year, of “making, storing, spreading information, materials, items for the purpose of opposing the State” under Article 117 of the country’s Criminal Code.
All of them received long prison sentences, including Pham Chi Dung, who was sentenced to 15 years with three years’ probation, Ms. Shamdasani said:
“He was arrested on 21 November 2019, he was held in pre-trial detention for more than one year, no access to a lawyer, no access to his family. Now, finally in December 2020, just one month before his trial, he was allowed to meet a lawyer to prepare his defence.”
According to OHCHR, 60 individuals were arrested for crimes against national security last year, up from 42 in 2019.
It has urged the Viet Nam authorities to revise the country’s Criminal Code to bring it in line with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) relating to the freedom of expression.
UN’s global post-COVID poll: The long and short of what 1.5 million people want
A global survey conducted during the COVID-19 crisis has shown that people everywhere want better access to healthcare – along with greater international solidarity to address a raft of urgent world threats.
More than 1.5 million people from 195 countries answered the poll, which was conducted over the last year, marking the UN’s 75th anniversary.
Although people’s top immediate priority was universal healthcare, they also wanted greater investment in education, with the coronavirus closing classrooms around the world.
In the longer term, the number one global challenge was tackling climate change and environmental issues.
Many respondents also called for global solidarity and support for the hardest hit people and communities - to address inequalities - after the pandemic.
This call was especially clear in low and middle income countries, whereas fewer respondents in the richest countries indicated that support “to the hardest-hit places” was a high priority.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.