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Press briefing note in Syria, Indonesia / LGBT and Gaza

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location:    Geneva
Date: 26 May 2017
Subject:   (1) Syria, (2) Indonesia / LGBT and (3) Gaza

(1) Syria

Civilians in Syria are increasingly paying the price as counter-ISIL airstrikes escalate while ISIL cracks down on those in and around areas remaining under its control, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Friday.

The UN Human Rights chief urged “all States’ air forces operating in the country to take much greater care to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilians. All parties to the conflict must uphold their obligation to take every feasible measure to spare the civilian population from the effects of the armed conflict.”

The full press release in English is at: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21662&LangID=E
The full press release in Arabic is at: http://www.ohchr.org/AR/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21662&LangID=A
The French version will be made available on www.ohchr.org later in the day.

(2) Indonesia / LGBT

We are concerned by the recent persecution, arbitrary arrest, detention and ill-treatment of men perceived to be gay in Indonesia. In the past two months, more than 150 men were reportedly arrested in Aceh, Surabaya and Jakarta on the basis of alleged consensual relations between adults of the same sex. While many of them were reportedly released shortly after, some have been charged under a pornography law.

The arrested men have been subjected to public humiliation and stigmatization. In some cases, their names, photos and videos were released to the media. The men arrested in Surabaya were also subjected to forced HIV tests. In the case of Aceh, two men were publicly caned after being tried by a Sharia court. These latest incidents take place against a backdrop of reported violent attacks against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Indonesia. While high-level officials had previously spoken out in defence of the rights of LGBT people, there has recently been widespread hate speech in the media and by some religious groups and some public officials.

Attitudes towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people may vary from country to country but human rights standards are invariable. International law is clear: all people, without exception, are entitled to protection of their human rights – and that includes LGBT individuals. Consensual relations between adults of the same sex should not be criminalized, and arresting and detaining people on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity is by definition arbitrary.

The treatment of these men violates multiple human rights standards including those on liberty, fair trial, integrity, privacy, dignity, equality before the law, non-discrimination and the absolute prohibition on torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. These human rights standards are enshrined in legally binding treaties ratified by Indonesia, including the Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

We call on the Indonesian authorities to release all individuals detained on the basis of their sexual orientation, provide those subjected to abuses with effective remedy and review legislation that contravenes Indonesia’s legal obligations, including local criminal legislation in Aceh. The authorities should ensure prompt, effective, independent and impartial investigations and prosecution of human rights violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in line with fair trial norms and standards. They should also work to combat stigma and negative public attitudes towards LGBT people.

(3) Gaza

We condemn the execution of three men by the authorities in Gaza yesterday. The men were convicted by a special so-called “field military court” of involvement in the murder of Hamas leader Mazen Al Faqhaa on 24 March, as well as on charges of “collaboration with an enemy party”. The executions amount to an arbitrary deprivation of life.

International law sets very stringent conditions for the application of the death penalty, including meticulous compliance with fair trial standards. This trial does not appear to have met these standards. The “field military court” allows no possibility of appeal or clemency, in breach of international law. Two of the men were civilians and should not have been tried by a military court. Article 109 of the Palestinian Basic Law requires that executions be carried out after the approval of President Mahmoud Abbas. This law too was ignored. We are also appalled by the public and celebratory nature of the executions. Authorities in Gaza have now carried out 28 executions since the Hamas takeover in 2007, nine of them in the last 12 months.

We reiterate our call to the authorities in Gaza to desist from carrying out further executions; to end the practice of trying civilians before military courts; and to comply with all of its obligations under international law. The UN opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances. We call on the State of Palestine to immediately establish an official moratorium on the use of the death penalty with a view to its abolition.


For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 97 67 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org)

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