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Bachelet briefs States on Yemen, Eritrea, Iran, Sri Lanka, Cyprus, Nicaragua, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras and Venezuela

GENEVA (27 March 2020) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Thursday presented reports and oral updates on the situation in ten countries, as mandated by the UN Human Rights Council. The ten country situations were delivered in one statement available (English only) and (English and Spanish). Brief summaries follow.

On Yemen: : The recent escalation in armed hostilities “have dashed hope that the lull in fighting earlier this year could lead to an end to the long suffering of Yemen’s people,” Bachelet said. In the first two months of 2020, her Office confirmed the killing of 74 people, among them 43 children, while a further 107 people were injured. Since March 2015, the Office has verified the killing of 7,734 civilians, including 2103 children, and injuries to 12,269 others due to indiscriminate attacks, landmines, improvised explosive devices, and the storage of weapons and explosives in residential areas, by all parties to the conflict. The real number is likely to be much higher. The High Commissioner also underlined the dire humanitarian situation, particularly of the country’s 3.65 million internally displaced people. “I am deeply concerned that restrictions on humanitarian aid continue to be imposed by all parties to the conflict, in violation of their obligations under international law,” she said. Across the country, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances are widespread. “My Office has documented well over 2,654 cases of arbitrary detention since March 2015, including 179 children; and 79 cases of enforced disappearances by all parties to the conflict.” She also noted Houthi and Government forces continue to recruit and use of children in hostilities. “The rights of Yemen’s children are being violated on all sides,” Bachelet stressed.

On Eritrea: Bachelet noted that the human rights situation has not tangibly improved.  “The civic space remains entirely under Government control, and rights to freedom of expression, association, peaceful assembly and belief, as well as freedom of the press, are largely denied,” she said. The High Commissioner called on the authorities to ensure that people in detention are treated with humanity and dignity and called for those subjected to arbitrary detention to be released. “The indefinite duration and harsh conditions of the military service are one of the main factors pushing many young Eritreans to leave the country,” she said, encouraging the Government to announce a timetable for demobilization.

On Iran: Bachelet highlighted discrimination against women and minorities, as well as the arrest, imprisonment and ill-treatment of human rights defenders, labour rights activists, journalists, scientists, environmentalists and dual and foreign nationals. She also raised concerns that the security forces responded to the protests in November 2019 with excessive force, reportedly causing more than 300 deaths. “Over 7,000 protesters have been arrested; many remain in detention and are denied access to medical care and legal representation, with some reportedly subjected to torture and other ill-treatment,” the High Commissioner said. Bachelet also noted the impact of sectoral sanctions on the availability of essential medicines and medical equipment, as well as on food prices.
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On Sri Lanka: The increasing levels of hate speech, as well as security and policy measures that appear to be discriminately and disproportionately directed against minorities, both Tamil and Muslim, are a source of concern. The High Commissioner also drew attention to renewed reports of surveillance and harassment of human rights defenders, journalists and victims. “The fundamental problem remains that Sri Lanka has still not addressed impunity for past violations, nor undertaken the security sector reforms needed to dismantle their drivers and enablers. Systemic barriers that continue to exist within the criminal justice system remain an impediment to real justice. As a result, Sri Lankans from all communities have no guarantee that past patterns of human rights violations will not recur,” Bachelet said.
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On Cyprus: The division of Cyprus continues to generate obstacles to full enjoyment of human rights. “I urge stronger efforts for mutual dialogue and a human rights-based approach, which can enhance conditions conducive for peace,” Bachelet said. She noted some progress towards a mine-free Cyprus and in the search for missing persons, although she called for accelerated efforts in both areas. She also commended the work of the many Cypriots across the island who are working together to advance human rights through bi-communal cooperation.
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On Nicaragua: Human rights violations have continued unabated, the High Commissioner stressed, noting that as of December 2019 more than 98,000 Nicaraguans had left the country. “The right to peaceful protest is systematically denied,” Bachelet said. “Human rights defenders, journalists, political opponents, members of the Catholic Church, people released from prison under the Amnesty Law, relatives of people still detained in connection with the protests and of  victims of serious human rights violations, continue to suffer repeated acts of intimidation and harassment by police and armed pro-government elements.”  Bachelet noted the recent release of dozens of people, and called on the Government to free 61 people who remain in detention for reasons related to the protests. The killings of peasants and indigenous peoples are also of concern, she said. “I repeat my call for the resumption of dialogue with all sectors of Nicaraguan society, and for measures to advance the electoral reforms necessary to ensure that future elections are fair, credible and transparent,” the High Commissioner said. She also reiterated the recommendation that her Office be granted access to Nicaragua.

On Colombia: Bachelet noted persistent high levels of violence. “Defending human rights remains a high-risk task in Colombia,” she said. Bachelet noted that her Office documented 108 killings of human rights defenders in 2019 and as of 19 February this year, four cases have been confirmed and 31 more are being verified. However, the numbers documented by the Ombudsperson’s Office are higher, with 134 homicides in 2019. “I encourage the State to address the structural causes of this violence, investigate these attacks and punish those responsible - including those who planned and ordered them,” she said  She also reiterated her concern regarding the use of the Armed Forces in situations related to public security, including social protests. Bachelet welcomed the progress made by the Comprehensive System of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition and encouraged the State to implement all aspects of the Peace Agreement, “including rural reform, keeping the rights of victims at its centre.”
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On Guatemala: Although the general elections in 2019 were held without incident, Bachelet noted the high and persistent levels of inequality, discrimination and insecurity. “Setbacks in judicial independence, and in the fight against corruption and impunity, continued to occur,” she said, noting that the new authorities have a key opportunity to address existing challenges and to protect human rights. “It is crucial that the State adopt effective and comprehensive measures to prevent attacks against human rights defenders and justice officials, with specific attention to indigenous and women defenders, among others,” she stressed.
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On Honduras: The complex social and political situation continued to result in high levels of poverty, violence, insecurity, and the displacement of the Honduran population both within the country and towards the North.  “I encourage the State to guarantee the sustainable reintegration of returnees, as well as to ensure the protection of migrants and those displaced,” she said. The High Commissioner also voiced concern at the situation in prisons, where 60 detainees were killed in 2019, including 49 in December alone. “My Office also continues to monitor attacks on human rights defenders. I am particularly concerned by the situation of indigenous communities, including killings of those working to protect indigenous lands and territories,” she said.
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On Venezuela: The High Commissioner detailed some of the progress achieved in the implementation of the technical cooperation work plan, as well as on protection issues. Her Office made three visits to detention centres during which was possible to conduct confidential interviews with 28. The Office has also submitted to the authorities more than 130 cases of alleged human rights violations against people deprived of their liberty. “I take note of the release of 14 people in January. I reiterate my call for the unconditional release of all those detained for political reasons, including the implementation of findings by the Working Group on Arbitrary detention.” She reiterated her call to the authorities to make progress towards establishing a Country Office in Venezuela, in line with her overall global mandate to promote and protect human rights.
ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.orgor Jeremy Laurence - + 41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.orgor Liz Throssell- + 41 22 917 9296 / ethrossell@ohchr.org or Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / mhurtado@ohchr.org
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