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Press briefing notes on Hungary, Yemen and Saudi Arabia

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Cécile Pouilly
Location: Geneva
Date: 22 Mai 2015

(1) Hungary

We are concerned about a questionnaire on immigration and terrorism that was sent last week by the Hungarian government to every citizen over the age of 18. We are shocked by the Prime Minister's introductory message, which suggests a link between migration and terrorist attacks, including the attack which took place in Paris in early January this year.

The message also states that economic migrants represent a “new threat” to Hungary and that the country must decide how to “defend itself against illegal immigrants”. Migrants should not be allowed to “jeopardize the jobs and livelihood of Hungarians”, it says, adding that they irregularly cross the country’s borders under the "false pretext" of seeking asylum, while coming to "enjoy" the welfare system and job opportunities.

We are also worried about the phrasing of some of the suggestive, leading questions, which actively promote hostility towards migrants and risk spreading xenophobia within the country. For instance, question three states that “there are some who think that mismanagement of the immigration question by Brussels may have something to do with increased terrorism. Do you agree with this view?”

We remind the Hungarian authorities that they have a duty under international human rights law to combat xenophobia and discrimination. Migration policies should be principled and evidence-based and start from the premise that all migrants, regardless of their legal status, how they arrive at borders or where they come from, are entitled to enjoy their human rights, in line with international law.

We are also worried about the Prime Minister’s recent calls for a debate on a possible reintroduction of the death penalty. Any attempt to reinstate the death penalty in Hungary would be a terrible setback in the global fight against the use of capital punishment.

(2) Yemen

At least 1,037 civilians, including 130 women and 234 children, lost their lives in Yemen between 26 March and 20 May, while at least another 2,453 civilians have been injured. There has also been massive destruction of civilian infrastructure, particularly in Aden and Sada’ah.

While the five-day humanitarian pause between 12 May and 17 May provided some respite, there were still reports of ground combat and shelling, and millions remain in need of humanitarian assistance. Following the pause, the violence has resumed in Yemen, including airstrikes in Aden, Ibb, Sada'ah, Dhale, and Sana'a. Reports suggest Sada'ah and Sana'a have been most affected by airstrikes while Taiz, Aden and Dhale are witnessing ground fighting.

We would like to draw attention as well to the situation in prisons and rehabilitation facilities in Yemen. Many such facilities have been affected by airstrikes or by armed clashes. More than 4,000 inmates have fled while several have been killed or injured. Conditions in correctional facilities in Yemen, many of which were chronically poor even prior to the current conflict, have deteriorated considerably. The general shortage of food and fuel means that prisoners lack access to sufficient food, electricity, water, proper sanitation facilities and necessary healthcare. There has reportedly been an outbreak of diseases such as scabies and mycosis. Shortage of fuel has meant that waste management has been severely affected. Inmates have, in many cases, also been deprived of visits from lawyers or family members due to the ongoing conflict.

We echo the call by the Secretary-General for all sides to engage in the upcoming consultations in Geneva in good faith. Given such a large number of civilian casualties over the past two months, we again urge all parties, including coalition forces, the Yemeni armed forces and non-State armed groups including the Houthis, to adhere strictly to their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law – in particular to take all possible measures to ensure the protection of civilians.

We also urge an extension of the humanitarian pause, as a first step towards a permanent ceasefire and an end to all hostilities by all parties to the conflict.

(3) Saudi Arabia

A UN Human Rights Office delegation will visit Riyadh this Sunday to formally introduce a new Project Coordinator who will be conducting trainings, workshops and other activities to raise awareness of human rights in Saudi Arabia based on a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Office and the Government, represented by the Saudi Human Rights Commission.

We have been carrying out a number of capacity building activities of this sort in Saudi Arabia since 2014, but a presence on the ground will enable us to step up the pace. We will be working with the Saudi Human Rights Commission in Riyadh on methods and mechanisms to document and monitor human rights violations. We will also work to raise awareness among employees of Ministries and other officials. Training and learning opportunities will also be offered to civil society organisations and human rights activists. The goal of this project is to increase awareness and understanding of human rights and move forward to close existing gaps – in law and practice – with international norms and standards.

We will continue to advocate for the Saudi Human Rights Commission to evolve towards complying with the Paris Principles for National Human Rights Institutions that were adopted by the UN General Assembly.


For more information and media requests, please contact please contact Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org)

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