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Updated On: Tuesday, November 21 2017

Focus on Governments’ Human Rights Violations

Content by: South-South News

2 May 2017, New York, USA | South-South News — A number of governments around the world are responding to violence by themselves violating international human rights standards, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said on May 1 in Geneva, part of a worrying trend of growing disregard for international law.

He said “violations by non-state actors of human rights norms, of international law, do not and should not serve as grounds for violations thereby by government actors.” Zeid specifically mentioned the excessive use of states of emergency, the rise in extra-judicial killings and arbitrary arrest, the denial of freedom of expression and the destruction of civil society, all of which have been documented in a number of different countries.

A related trend identified by Zeid is the assumption that "demonstration of strength by the states solves problems." This assumption, he said, leads some governments to believe that "where the law seems to stand in the way, the law is to be skirted."

He added that such violations by governments can be part of a deliberate "political fog" intended "to create confusion, at times even amounting to the depth-charging of truth, or parts of it, so that a government can pursue a particular line," and said that this trend was something to be watched very carefully by defenders of human rights.

The current crackdown in Turkey came in for specific criticism by the UN's top human rights official. Zeid said that “by some accounts, up to a staggering 150,000 civil servants have been suspended and just last week 10,000 police officers were reportedly suspended, a thousand of whom were detained.”

Over the weekend, he added, “another 4,000 public officials were reportedly sacked, including 1,000 justice ministry staff. With such a large number it is highly unlikely that the suspensions and detentions will have met due process standards."

"Yes, the terror attacks need to be tackled” Zeid said about Turkey, “but not at the expense of human rights and I am very concerned about the renewed state of emergency which was undertaken in mid-April and the climate of fear in the country.”

Human rights violations are also responsible for disastrous humanitarian conditions, including famine, according to Zeid. He said “human rights violations have also resulted in famines in Yemen and South Sudan, and human rights deficits have exacerbated the impact of droughts in other places like Kenya, Somalia and Northern Nigeria.”

With an eye towards World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the High Commissioner expressed his concern about the mounting pressures faced by journalists, as well as other human rights defenders in countries such as Colombia, China, Mexico, Turkey and Thailand.

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