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Some 437,000 people murdered worldwide in 2012, according to new UNODC study
by Jean-Luc Lemahieu
UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
Almost half a million people (437,000) across the world lost their lives in 2012 as a result of intentional homicide, according to a new study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Launching the Global Study on Homicide 2013, Jean-Luc Lemahieu, Director for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, said: "Too many lives are being tragically cut short, too many families and communities left shattered. There is an urgent need to understand how violent crime is plaguing countries around the world, particularly affecting young men but also taking a heavy toll on women."
Globally, some 80 per cent of homicide victims and 95 per cent of perpetrators are men. Almost 15 per cent of all homicides stem from domestic violence (63,600). However, the overwhelming majority - almost 70 per cent - of domestic violence fatalities are women (43,600).
"Home can be the most dangerous place for a woman," said Mr. Lemahieu. "It is particularly heartbreaking when those who should be protecting their loved ones are the very people responsible for their murder."
Over half of all homicide victims are under 30 years of age, with children under the age of 15 accounting for just over 8 per cent of all homicides (36,000), the Study highlighted.
The regional picture
Almost 750 million people live in countries with the highest homicide rates in the world - namely the Americas and Africa - meaning that almost half of all homicide occurs in countries that are home to just 11 per cent of the earth''s population.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, 3 billion people - mainly in Europe, Asia and Oceania- live in countries where homicide rates are relatively low.
The global average murder rate stands at 6.2 per 100,000 population, but Southern Africa and Central America recorded more than four times that number (30 and 26 victims per 100,000 population respectively), the highest in the world. Meanwhile, with rates some five times lower than the global average, East Asia, Southern Europe and Western Europe recorded the lowest homicide levels in 2012.
Worryingly, homicide levels in North Africa, East Africa and parts of South Asia are rising amid social and political instability. In an encouraging trend, South Africa, which has consistently high rates of homicide, saw the homicide rate halve from 64.5 per 100,000 in 1995 to 31.0 per 100,000 in 2012.
Homicides linked to gangs and organized criminal groups accounted for 30 per cent of all homicides in the Americas compared to below 1 per cent in Asia, Europe and Oceania. While surges in homicide are often linked to this type of violence, the Americas saw homicide levels five to eight times higher than Europe and Asia since the 1950s.
The gender bias
Globally, the male homicide rate is almost four times higher than for females (9.7 versus 2.7 per 100,000) and is highest in the Americas (29.3 per 100,000 males), where it is almost seven times higher than in Asia, Europe and Oceania (all under 4.5 per 100,000 males). In particular, the homicide rate for male victims aged 15-29 in South and Central America is over four times the global average rate for that age group. More than 1 in 7 of all homicide victims globally is a young male aged 15-29 in the Americas.
While men are mostly killed by someone they may not know, almost half of all female victims are killed by those closest to them. In Asia, Europe and Oceania the share of victims from domestic violence is particularly important. In all these regions, the majority of female homicide victims are killed at the hands of their intimate partners/family members (in Asia and Europe, 55 per cent, and in Oceania, 73 per cent). For example, in Asia, 19,700 women were killed by their intimate partners or family members in 2012. When only looking at intimate partner violence, the overwhelming majority of homicide victims are women (79 per cent in Europe).
The causes of homicide
The consumption of alcohol and/or illicit drugs increases the risk of perpetrating homicide. In some countries, over half of homicide offenders acted under the influence of alcohol. Although the effects of illicit drugs are less well documented, cocaine and amphetamine-type stimulants have been associated with violent behaviour and homicide.
No more hypocrisy, Stop Condemning Torture by Others, while Accepting its Products
by Juan E. Méndez
United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, Juan E. Méndez, has urged Governments to strictly abstain from using information or products of acts of torture and ill-treatment collected by third parties in other countries. “It is hypocritical of States to condemn torture committed by others while accepting its products,” Mr. Méndez underscored.
“Governments cannot condemn the evil of torture and other ill-treatment at the international level while condoning it at the national level,” Mr. Méndez said during the presentation of his latest report to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
“Any use of torture-tainted information, even if the torture has been committed by agents of another State, is an act of acquiescence in torture that compromises the user State’s responsibility and leads to individual and State complicity in acts of torture,” the United Nations expert warned.
His ground-breaking report identifies State practices on the use of torture-tainted information collected by others, and underlines that some States have “diluted cardinal principals necessary for preventing and suppressing torture and ill-treatment,” including the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment.
“This absolute and non-derogable prohibition also applies to collecting, sharing and receiving torture-tainted information between States during intelligence gathering or covert operations,” Mr. Méndez highlighted.
States should “refrain from allowing torture-tainted evidence in judicial proceedings or by creating a market for torture-tainted information outside of formal proceedings through the collecting, sharing and receiving such information by executive agencies,” the Special Rapporteur said.
Mr. Méndez regretted that States refuse to subject the work of their intelligence and security agencies to scrutiny or international oversight, which “leads to the erroneous conclusion that executive collecting, sharing and receiving of torture-tainted information is not subject to international law.”
The United Nations expert also insisted that the justification behind the absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment includes the objective of “removing any incentive to undertake torture anywhere in the world.”
“It is not sufficient to ensure that the judicial process is free from the taint of torture,” Mr. Méndez said. “Torture must not be encouraged, condoned, or acquiesced in all manifestations of public power, executive and judicial.”
“There is a clear affirmative obligation to prevent torture and ill-treatment that includes actions the State takes in its own jurisdiction to prevent torture or other ill-treatment in another jurisdiction,” the Special Rapporteur added.
* Juan E. Méndez was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in November 2010. He is independent from any government and serves in his individual capacity.
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