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World News in Brief: Air travel boom erases COVID dip, ‘disturbing’ new anti-LGBT bill in Ghana, rights abuses in Crimea

Madrid airport, Spain.
© Unsplash/John Oswald
Madrid airport, Spain.

World News in Brief: Air travel boom erases COVID dip, ‘disturbing’ new anti-LGBT bill in Ghana, rights abuses in Crimea

Human Rights

The UN aviation agency on Wednesday announced that air traffic levels are operating at around two per cent above their high in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic grounded much of the world’s population in lockdown.

Civil aviation organization ICAO said that the numbers for the first quarter of 2024 indicate that airlines will sustain the return to profitability recorded in 2023.

“The commitment of Member States to aligning their pandemic responses with the guidance developed by the ICAO Council has been crucial to the recovery of their air services,” said Council president Salvatore Sciacchitano.

“The implementation of ICAO’s post-pandemic guidance is now equally crucial to ensuring the resilience and sustainability of this recovery.”

The agency forecasts increasing traffic growth to around three per cent above 2019 levels, and possibly four per cent if the pace of recovery grows on routes which have not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels.

“The aspirational goals agreed upon by governments towards the decarbonization of air transport by 2050 are supporting the environmental sustainability of the recovery and future development of the global air transport network,” said ICAO Secretary General Juan Carlos Salazar.

The analysis indicates that air traffic on most routes had already reached or surpassed pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023.

Flying high

The major regional routes which passed the 2019 mark by the end of last year were travel within Europe; Europe to/from North America, the Middle East, southwest Asia and Africa; North America to/from Latin America and the Caribbean, southwest Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific; Middle East to/from Southwest Asia and Africa.

Most international Asian routes, with the exception of those serving southwest Asia, continue to have substantially lower levels of traffic in 2023 compared to pre-pandemic levels.

UN rights chief slams ‘profoundly disturbing’ Ghana family values bill

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The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Wednesday described a parliamentary bill in Ghana which introduces new criminal sanctions against LGBTQ+ citizens as “profoundly disturbing”, urging lawmakers to halt its passage.

Volker Türk said the Human Sexual Rights and Family Values Bill 2024 would broaden criminalization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transexual and queer people “simply for being who they are”. The bill also “threatens criminal penalties against perceived allies of LGBTQ+ people”, he warned.

Live free from discrimination

“I call for the bill not to become law. I urge the Ghanaian Government to take steps to ensure everyone can live free from violence, stigma and discrimination, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity”, said Mr. Türk.

“Consensual same-sex conduct should never be criminalized.”

He expressed deep alarm that the bill criminalizes the legitimate work of human rights defenders, teachers, medical professionals, landlords and people seeking healthcare.

“The bill is contrary to Ghana’s own Constitution and freely undertaken regional and international human rights obligations and commitments, including to leave no one behind in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said the High Commissioner.

Mr. Türk stressed that the bill is corrosive and will have a negative impact on society as a whole.

He restated his office’s (OHCHR) commitment to work with the Government of Ghana and its national partners to ensure it fulfils its human rights commitments and obligations.

Russia’s decade-long occupation of Crimea marked by widespread violations

The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine on Wednesday published a new report documenting serious rights violations and infringements of humanitarian law in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

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The violations have persisted over a decade of occupation by Russian forces, with Moscow unlawfully imposing citizenship requirements, laws and institutions “across all spheres of life, suppressing opposition and dissent”, the mission said in press release.

The report reveals Russian efforts to restrict civic space and limit fundamental freedoms. Crimean Tatar leaders, perceived as opposing occupation or Russian policies, have been particularly impacted.

Those Tatars who fled the peninsula have been barred from returning while many Russians have been resettled in Crimea in a bid to change the demographics of the region.

‘Grim harbinger’

“Over the past decade, we have documented efforts by the Russian Federation to impose the Russian language, culture and institutional framework on Crimea, while at the same time taking actions to erase the peninsula’s rich cultural, linguistic and religious heritage,” said mission head Danielle Bell.

Any opposition has been met with harsh reprisals, says the report, with some subjected to rights violations, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention and torture.

The findings are “not only alarming, but they are also a grim harbinger of the devastating and lasting impact Russian occupation may have on other occupied regions of Ukraine”, Ms. Bell said.