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Press briefing notes on Guinea, Cameroon, Somalia and Egypt

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Date: 19 July 2013
Location: Geneva
Subjects:
1) Guinea
2) Cameroon
3) Somalia
4) Egypt

1) Guinea

Calm seems to have been restored after three days of violent inter-communal clashes between members of the Guerze and Konianke tribes in Koule, 45 km from Nzerekore, which started on 15 July. The clashes allegedly broke out following an altercation between three individuals, with two members of the Guerze tribe beating a young Konianke to death after accusing him of stealing from the gas station where they worked. Members of the two communities then formed gangs and attacked each other. The violence spread to other parts of the Forestière region, with those involved reportedly fighting each other with machetes, stones and sticks. There have also been incidents of looting, road-blocks, and destruction of places of mosques and churches, as well as houses and damage to other property.

The clashes have resulted in the killing of at least 57 people, three of whom were beheaded with machetes, with others hacked to death or burnt alive. Over 163 people were injured, and hundreds of others were displaced and sought refuge in military camps in Nzerekore and Beyla.

The Government declared a curfew on 16 July and sent a ministerial delegation to the area to facilitate mediation talks between the two groups. In the meantime, the President issued a statement calling for calm. Security and defence forces which were deployed to restore order, with the support of additional troops from Macenta and Gueckedou, continue to patrol the Nzerekore area.

We commend the efforts made by the government and security and defence forces to restore calm, while also reminding them of the necessity to uphold human rights principles during law enforcement operations. We have quite a substantial office in the country and we are closely following the situation.

2) Cameroon

We are shocked by the death of prominent human rights defender and journalist Eric Lembembe in Cameroon. Lembembe was found dead in his house on July 15. His body reportedly showed evidence of physical mistreatment possibly amounting to torture.

This case is taking place amid a general climate of fear amongst Cameroonian human rights defenders, some of whom have received death threats by phone or email for defending the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

In June, three local NGOs launched a report together with Human Rights Watch on human rights violations linked to arbitrary arrests and detentions on the grounds of homosexuality in Cameroon.

The need to ensure human rights for all and to respect the principles of non-discrimination, including for people belonging to sexual minorities, was also raised with the Cameroonian authorities by the High Commissioner during her recent visit to Cameroon (30 June - 2 July 2013).

Our office in Cameroon has approached the National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms and requested that the Commission takes necessary steps to ensure that the case is properly investigated by the police so that Mr Lembembe's murderers are brought to justice.

3) Somalia

We are concerned about a draft media law prepared by Somalia’s Ministry of Information, Posts, Telecommunication and Transport and we urge the Somali authorities to review the draft in order to ensure its conformity with international human rights standards.

Despite earlier promises made by the Somali government that broad consultations would be organised prior to its enactment, the draft media law was submitted to the Council of Ministers, which adopted it on 11 July.

It is expected that the draft legislation will now be submitted to the Somali legislature where a media sub-committee will review it. Once adopted, the draft law will be submitted to the President for assent. This entire process is likely to be completed within less than two months, which leaves insufficient time for wide-ranging consultations to take place and for necessary improvements identified during that process to be made to the draft legislation.

We are particularly concerned that the draft legislation contains vague language and extremely broad categories that could easily be used to curtail freedom of expression, for instance requiring media not to contravene or disseminate information that is against Islam, or Somali traditions or traditional ethics.

The draft also requires journalists to reveal their sources if published information stirs up public sentiments and provides for the suspension of journalists and other representatives of media organisations accused of violating the media legislation -- a provision which itself violates the presumption of innocence.

We are also concerned about the composition of the proposed regulatory body, the National Media Council, and the selection process for its members, neither of which guarantee its independence.

4) Egypt

Just to give you an update of where we stand on Egypt. On Monday 10 July the High Commissioner met the Egyptian Ambassador here in Geneva and requested the following information:

1. A list of names of persons against whom arrest warrants have been issued in connection with the events on and after 3 July 2013, indicating who among these persons is now in detention, and information about the legal basis upon which the warrants were issued;

2. Information regarding the total number of people who are currently detained in connection with the events on and after 3 July 2013, whether on the basis of a specific arrest warrant or otherwise;

3. Information regarding the legal basis upon which the former president and his presidential team are detained;

4. Information regarding the terms of reference and composition of the commission established by the interim authorities to investigate the killings that took place on 8 July outside the Republican Guard compound.

The same requests were transmitted in a written note verbale to the Egyptian government two days later on Friday 12 July. We have not yet received a reply.

The High Commissioner has also informed the Egyptian authorities that she would like to deploy a team to follow the developments on the ground. We are waiting for the approval of the authorities, and a team is on standby, ready to be deployed immediately as soon as such approval is received.

ENDS

For further information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 or + 41 79 506 1088 / rcolville@ohchr.org); Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 or +41 79 618 3430 / cpouilly@ohchr.org) or Liz Throssell (+ 41 22 917 9434 / ethrossell@ohchr.org)

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