ODVV Statements at 29th Session of the Human...
Item 5:Human, Power vs. Peace
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of achieving nuclear complete disarmament. The NPT represents the only binding commitment in a multilateral treaty to the goal of disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States. Conferences to review the operation of the Treaty have been held at five-year intervals since the Treaty went into effect in 1970.
The latest conference took place in New York on May 2015, however, after four weeks of negotiations states and participants left the conference on a dead luck with a great failure as a result of the United States, Britain and Canada’s one-sided oppositions on a proposal to set up a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East. Protecting Israeli’s interest and its violent policies in the region by countries like Canada, UK, or US is nothing new. However, such clear blocking of an international decision is absolutely contrary to what they all claim about the protecting the international peace and security.
As the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, we would like to express our strongest and deepest disappointment on what happened at the conference and blame the three countries of US, UK and Canada for it. We believe it is the time to let the region of Middle East to decide for itself and make its destiny. The so-called world powers need to stop intervening in the region’s affairs. For how long are the states in Middle East are supposed to suffer the consequences of Israel’s ‘’self-defence’’ wars? For how long the Unites States wants to bring ‘’democracy’’ in the countries of Middle East by taking military actions against them For how long the people of Middle East are supposed to be the victim of ensuring the Israel’s security in the world?
The most important decisions such as Middle East being a weapon-free-zone, is being rejected and therefore not in place by the states that are not even part of the region, for of the Israel who never even ratified the NPT. And yet, ironically enough, Iran is considered to be the threat to the international security.
ODVV requests the three states of US, UK and Canada to reconsider their decision on the final document of the recent review conference of NPT in order to avoid any further damage to their international image.
Item4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, Ongoing Unprecedented Atrocities in Iraq
It seems as if there is a lack of strong international political wills to protect Iraqi civilians against IS atrocities. The terrorist group is going on committing ethnic cleansing in Iraq with impunity.
According to local officials, in the first few days after capturing the capital city of a major Iraqi region, IS militants likely killed as many as 500 people in the city of Ramadi, and forced 8,000 to flee their homes.
There are numerous reports of IS atrocities such as, mass murders of civilians in the history of the group’s terrorist activities including the mass beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians for their religion , 150 women and underage girls for refusing to marry militants, and 300 Yezidi hostages for their religious beliefs. This is while the heinous pictures of the hostages who were burned alive are burned into the minds of human right activists and many ordinary people. The world is watching while many innocent civilians are massacred right before the eyes of the international community which does not appear to be determined to stop the terrorists from committing even more crimes.
More than 2 and a half million Iraqis are displaced because of the IS attacks and due to the ongoing violence have little hope of returning to their homes. The refugees are in need of shelter, food, water and safety. Many of them are living in tents which are exposed to sever weather conditions. Sometimes the tents are overcrowded, making it difficult for refugees to tolerate the situation. Refugee children are deprived of their right to education and many refugees are suffering from chronic diseases and are traumatized by witnessing savage violence.
Apart from human tragedies created by IS in Iraq, the country’s archaeological treasures are ruined by the terrorist group. The country has lost a considerable amount of its cultural heritage in the fight with IS militants including the destruction of 2,000-year-old city of Hatra , 3,000-year-old city of Nimrud, the mosque believed to be the burial place of the Prophet Younis, or Jonah, the Mosque of the Prophet Jirjis, landmarks in the ancient city of Dur Sharrukin, and Mosul museum. Terrorists insist upon erasing the history of humanity by erasing the heritage of Iraq.
IS atrocities are not limited to Iraq, the terrorist group is involved in crimes in Syria, Egypt and even Saudi Arabia. On May 22, 2015, an IS suicide bomber attacked a Shiite mosque in Saudi Arabia, killing 21 innocent people and wounding 81 including women and children. Also in Syria the world has grown weary of seeing the IS cruelty. The group now controls “50 per cent of the country's territory” committing unprecedented crimes against humanity. On May 21, 2015, it was reported that IS seized the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, executing 17 people. At least 460 people were killed in the battle for Palmyra that began on May 13, including 49 who were executed by IS, nine of them children.Regretting the fact that the fire of violence is burning at full blaze against civilians and minorities especially in Iraq and Syria, the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) echoes the pledges of Iraqi NGOs for supporting both their people and government in the defence of their sovereignty.
Expressing its deepest regrets about the continuation of violence by IS and in line with the serious concerns expressed in UN resolution A/HRC/28/L.29, ODVV calls on the international community to adopt more effective measures to protect civilians against the IS on-going atrocities and assist the Iraqi government to help the victims of IS crimes including the internally displaced people.
Voicing great concerns about the reluctance of international powers to help innocent civilians, ODVV calls on the UN to seek urgent political solution to tragic humanitarian crisis created by IS.
Item4: Economic Sanctions: Systematic Violation of Human Rights
Economic sanctions are imposed on Iran with different justifications. According to the Security Council sanctions are applied to effectuate five main outcomes: conflict resolution, non-proliferation, counter-terrorism, democratization, and the protection of civilians. However, decades of sanctions demonstrate that these objectives are rarely attained and it is crystal clear that, despite the justifications made, economic sanctions target the ordinary people, especially the most vulnerable population including children and patients who bear the brunt of economic instability caused by pressures.
It is highly regrettable to witness the politically motivated sanctions violating vulnerable people’s human rights while they are proved to have failed reaching their intended political goals.
- Despite the agreements made on facilitating medicine transfers to Iran, unfair economic sanctions are still threatening the lives of Iranian patients. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians with serious illnesses have been put at imminent risk by the consequences of international sanctions, which have led to dire shortages of life-saving medicines. The sanctions have also led to shortages of key medical supplies, blatantly violating the patients’ right to life and right to health.
Medicines have been exempted form sanctioned items by the sanctioning countries, however the sanctions put on Iran banking system have made any financial transactions almost impossible, limiting the country’s access to medicine.
- Sanctions are pushing ordinary Iranians to the edge of poverty, destroying the quality of their lives: limiting their access to food, medical care, adequate housing, education and employment. They seriously violate the right to enjoy an adequate standard of living. In addition, the sanctions are targeting the people who are living on or under poverty line more than the other people, making it too difficult for them to make ends meet.
- Sanctions have slowed Iran’s industrial and economic growth, considerably limited foreign investment and triggered national currency devaluation, hyperinflation, declining GDP and, last but not least, reduction of oil and gas production and export. The negative impact of economic sanctions on Iran overall economy is undeniable. Consequently, the process of development in the country is seriously affected by the sanctions.
The sanctions were supposed to create hate and discontent among people in Iran, in order to contribute to a regime change in the country, while a Gall up poll indicates that contrary results are achieved. Iranian people, suffering from the bitter consequences of economic sanctions, have developed a feeling of hatred toward the sanctioning countries’ inhuman behaviour rather than the Iranian authorities. Half of Iranians surveyed in 2012 and 2013 held the United States most responsible for the sanctions, compared to around 10 percent who felt their own government was most responsible. Sixty-eight percent of men and sixty-two percent of women believed that Iran should continue to develop its nuclear power capacity despite the sanctions.
Members of civil society have been expressing concerns about the notorious impact of the unilateral coercive measures on human rights, but the pledges have not been translated into results so far and the violation of Iranian people’s rights sadly persists.
Simply put, if the real objective of the sanctions was to hurt ordinary Iranians, they have been successful. If they were intended to compel Iran to cease its current nuclear program, they have not only failed, but have actually resulted in acceleration of the program, while blatantly violating the fundamental human rights of the most vulnerable part of the Iranian population.
The Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) raises serious concerns about the violation of human rights, especially that of the vulnerable population, as a result of economic sanctions.
ODVV calls on the international community and the UN to re-consider the sanctions and their impact on the people’s human rights and support and facilitate any sanction removing decisions.
ODVV also calls on the special rapporteur on UCM to study the detrimental impacts of sanctions on innocent people and inform the UN of the results.
Item4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, Saudi Arabia’s Human Rights Situation
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is consistently ranking among the "worst of the worst" in Freedom House's annual survey of political and civil rights. Not only the new king, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, has not been trying to take the first steps towards stopping the human rights abuses, but rather, with the same unfair and illegal policies he has been continuing the systematic violations of human rights both nationally and internationally in 2015. At the domestic level, the most important human rights problems reported include (but not limited to) citizens’ lack of the universal rights such as freedom of expression and belief. In addition, women and religious minorities are still greatly suffering from discriminations taking place against them on a daily bases. In the past few years Saudi Arabia went even further to violate the sovereignty of the States (i.e., Bahrain and Yemen) which resulted in the death of hundreds of civilians, innocent women and children. International community has so far failed to enact effective measures in order to protect the rights and freedom of these groups.
Domestic Violations of Human Rights
It’s been a long time that despite the recommendations and legal requests of both international organizations and NGOs to stop the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, the basic rights and freedom of women and minority groups are still being violated today. It is quite ironic that, neither relative international bodies nor human rights advocating States, appointed a country special rapporteur for Saudi Arabia, posed sanctions or any other punishment for that matter, which resulted to the country’s continuation of human rights violations with impunity.
The country’s government is known for its strict gender inequalities, as women may not legally drive cars, their use of public facilities is restricted, and they cannot travel within or outside of the country without a male relative. Education and economic rights for Saudi women have improved, and now more than half of the country’s university students are females, however, due to the existing restrictions, woman makeup only 5% of the workforce in Saudi.
With respect to the minority groups, religious practices of the Shiite and Sufi Muslim minority sects are extremely limited in Saudi Arabia. The least of the violations can be banning the building of Shiite mosque and not allowing them to practice or pray in public; and the most is the spite expressed by the known cleric, Adel Al Kalbani, in May 2009 declaring that all Shia Muslims were apostate, unbelievers, and as such should be killed. Considering that Al Kalbani was appointed to his position by the King himself, it seems that the cleric was expressing the state’s position against all Shia Muslims, whether within or outside the borders of the Kingdom. Al Kalbani suggested that all Saudi Shia should be forced to leave the Kingdom.
According to Human Rights Watch report, Shia citizens in Saudi Arabia "face systematic discrimination in religion, education, justice, and employment". Furthermore, the recent decision of the Saudi on beheading and publicly displaying the headless body of Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, internationally respected Shia cleric, by the Specialized Criminal Court for ‘seeking foreign meddling’ and ‘disobeying’ its rulers and taking up arms against the security forces speaks to the clear existing infraction of freedom of speech and belief in Saudi Arabia.
As a result of the lack of providing a reasonable protection for the religious minorities in Saudi Arabia, a suicide bombing of a Shiite mosque in eastern Saudi Arabia took place on May 22th which caused the death of at least 19 people including children, a move that could represent a significant escalation of the extremist group's operations in the kingdom. Saudi Shiites are concerned that the attack represents a backlash for Saudi Arabia's military campaign against rebel (Shiite) Houthis in Yemen.
International Violations of Human Rights
In the past few years, Saudi authorities have developed a habit of ‘helping’ people in Middle East by suppressing the oppositions of States. The intervention of Saudi in Bahrain during the Arab-Spring and in Yemen civil conflict today, are two examples of that. The great number of civilian casualties as a result of Saudi’s attacks on these sovereign states in the past few years can never be justified by their ‘Collateral Damage’ argument. On March 2015, Saudi-led bombing campaign began. More than half of the victims have been reported to be civilian women and children. The U.N. and several major human rights groups have raised the possibility of war crimes in the scores of documented bombings so far. It is important to note that the U.S. has played a key role in the campaign, expediting weapons shipments and providing intelligence to Saudi Arabia. The dropped cluster bombs which contain dozens of smaller munitions designed to fan out over a wide area were manufactured and supplied by the United States. It should be mentioned that the use of cluster bombs are illegal under a 2008 treaty for the high civilian toll they can cause, and yet they were used anyway.
Item4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, Yemeni People Are Deprived of their Human RightsAccording to Yemen Ministry of Health, the first month ofheavy bombardments in Yemen resulted in over 4100 Yemeni casualties, including 115 children according to UNICEF. Also, according to the World Health Organization over 254,000 others including women and children are being displaced, and there are fears over the forced displacement of millions of other Yemenis while many of them lose their lives in the sea trying to escape their conflicted homeland. Airstrikes launched in and around Yemen's capital Sanaa, targeted bazaars, schools and hospitals leaving many civilian people killed and injured. In the ongoing conflicts dozens of people are losing their lives every day. For example,Airstrikes by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that hit a dairy factory in Yemen on March 31, 2015, killed at least 31 civilians and wounded another 11. Also, on May 1st 2015, Warplanes from a Saudi-led coalition struck a residential district of the Yemeni capital Sanaa overnight, killing eight to 10 civilian residents. The Saba state news agency, controlled by the Houthi movement, announced that the airstrike have caused 20 deaths and made more than 50 people including woman and children injured.Saudi Arabia is also accused of dropping U.S.-supplied cluster bombs in the fight against Houthi rebels in Yemen. The small bombs, if unexploded, can lay dormant and then blow out when people stumble upon them by chance, killing or maiming them as a result.
Saudi-led cluster airstrikes have been hitting areas near villages, putting local people in danger while according to international law these weapons should never be used under any circumstances and according to The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) the use, transfer and stockpile of cluster bombs is prohibited.
Hospitals in Yemen are struggling to cope with a stream of patients mostly victims of the violence that has gripped the country. They are facing an unprecedented shortage of medicine and qualified staff. There is not enough space to receive injured civilians and some of the seriously injured cases in ICUs have no beds.
In addition, the country is seriously suffering from shortage of food. Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world, already was a country where 60 percent of the people were living under the poverty line and the situation is worsening every day.
One in four Yemenis is undernourished and more than half of Yemen's 25 million people are'food insecure', that is lacking access to sufficient food for their needs. With a high proportion of the population living off the land and some 90 percent of Yemen's water resources being used in agriculture, people are especially vulnerable when conflicts disrupt farm production.
According to FAO, the escalation of violence in Yemen, risks aggravating an already dire food security situation. The civil society actors are deeply concerned about the ongoing violence in Yemen. For example, Amnesty International is disturbed by the high number of civilian casualties and deaths as a result of Saudi Arabian led airstrikes in Yemen announcing that “the high toll of civilian deaths and injuries in these attacks raises concerns about compliance with the rules of international humanitarian law.” Also, Human Rights Watch, in letters to Saudi Arabia’s King and U.S. Secretary of Defense, expressed concern that some of theairstrikes conducted by a U.S-backed, Saudi-led coalition in Yemen appeared to violate the rules of engagement and urged the United States and Saudi Arabia to take steps to minimize harm to civilians.
According to political analysts, Yemen is on the brink of civil war, or at least wide-scale revenge killings with different types of arms available in almost every Yemeni house.
Considering the fact that Yemeni people are suffering from the bitter consequences of the ongoing violence despite the UN criticisms, immediate actions are required to stop the ongoing violation of human rights, especially the right to life and the right to food, preventing the worsening trend of Yemen human tragedy.
The Organization for Defending Victims of Violence condemns the ongoing grave violation of people’s fundamental human rights and illegal interference in Yemen. ODVV echoes the UN Secretary General call for a freeze in all forms of violencein Yemen and urges the UN Security Council and the General Assembly to take immediate actions to stop all external attacks as well as any cases of internal conflicts and violations of human rights in the country.
ODVV also calls on the US and Saudi Arabia to join The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) and follow the rules of engagement as determined by the international law to protect civilian rights in armed conflicts.