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Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Press briefing notes on Nauru, Yemen and Democratic Republic of the Congo

Press Briefing: Australia/Nauru, Yemen, DRC

12 August 2016

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Ravina Shamdasani
Location: Geneva
Date: 12 August 2016 

(1) Nauru

We are extremely concerned about the serious allegations of violence, sexual assault, degrading treatment and self-harm contained in more than 1,000 incident reports from offshore processing centres on Nauru, many of which reportedly involved children. Many of the migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in these centres were transferred by Australia to Nauru more than three years ago and have been living in very difficult conditions ever since. We have conducted regular visits to Nauru in recent years and many of the allegations contained in the documents are, sadly, consistent with the findings from these visits. We have regularly and persistently brought these to the attention of the governments of Nauru and of Australia. It is not clear to what extent the alleged incidents were properly investigated either by the companies contracted by Australia to run the regional processing centre or by the Nauru police force.
Teams from our office have witnessed many of the migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, including children, in Nauru suffering from severe mental health problems as a result of their detention and lack of certainty. Some of these individuals had already experienced trauma in their home countries and sometimes also during theirs journey to Australia. They were then transferred to Nauru, where they were initially detained at the regional processing centre in harsh conditions. Over the years, and despite the opening up of the centres in October 2015, their situation has become increasingly dire and untenable, exacerbated by the indefinite nature of their time in Nauru, or for that matter in Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
The allegations contained in the documents must be systematically and properly investigated and those responsible held accountable. We have consistently called on the authorities in Nauru and Australia to put an end to the model of processing and keeping migrants offshore. We have urged them to promptly put in place measures to prevent the kinds of incidents revealed in the reports from occurring and to ensure that the physical and mental integrity of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers is protected. We call on Australia and Nauru to expeditiously end the immigration detention of children, and urge the authorities to institute human rights-compliant alternatives. We urge Nauru, as a party to the Optional Protocol on the UN Convention against Torture, to establish a national mechanism for the prevention of torture and we reiterate our offer to assist in this regard.

(2) Yemen
The number of civilian casualties in Yemen has been steadily mounting over the past few weeks. Despite the cessation of hostilities, between 11 April and 11 August 2016, we have documented 815 civilian casualties, including 272 deaths and 543 injured. Of these, in just the past week, since 5 August, 49 civilians were killed and another 77 injured.

Some of the deadliest incidents took place on 5 July, 7 August and 9 August. On 5 July, eight children were killed and seven injured due to a rocket that landed in the Al Zira’ah Neighbourhood in Marib City. The rocket was allegedly fired from an area controlled by the Popular Committees affiliated with Al Houthis. 

On 7 August, 16 civilians were killed, including seven children when airstrikes hit two civilian houses in Al Madid village in the Nihm district of Sana’a. Another 24 civilians, including 13 children, were injured and four other houses were partially destroyed. The village is located some 30 kilometers away from an area of alleged armed confrontations.

On 9 August, an airstrike hit Al Khafifa food factory in the Al Nahdhah district of Sana’a, killing 10 civilians, including three women who worked in the factory. Another 13 factory workers were injured, with some having spent hours under the rubble before the rescuers managed to pull them out. The factory stands adjacent to a military camp.

On 5 August, a journalist was reportedly struck by two shells launched by the Popular Committees affiliated with Al Houthis. 

The total number of civilian casualties between March 2015 and 11 August 2016 stands at 10,270, including 3,704 killed and 6,566 injured.

(3) Democratic Republic of the Congo

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has said that the denial of a visa for a senior Human Rights Watch researcher in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a regrettable development and does not bode well for civil society space in the run up to the presidential elections. During the High Commissioner's visit to the country, Government officials reassured him of their commitment to open up democratic space, particularly with the President calling for an inclusive national dialogue. This denial of a visa to an international human rights NGO worker casts a doubt over the depth of this commitment.

It is essential for external observers to be able to work freely to present an independent picture of the human rights situation in the DRC without fear of reprisals. We urge the Government to promptly review its decision to deny the visa.


For more information and media requests, please contact please contact Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / [email protected] )

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