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UN rights experts call for perpetrators of widespread human rights violations be brought to justice
by Yasmin Sooka
Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan
 
22 Dec 2017
 
Four years following the start of the current conflict in South Sudan, gross human rights violations continue to be committed in a widespread way by all parties to the conflict, in which civilians are bearing the brunt, says the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan* at the conclusion of a 12-day visit to the region.
 
"The Commission welcomes yesterday''s announcement made at the High Level Revitalization Forum of the Inter-Governmental Authority (IGAD) of a cessation of hostilities agreement yet remains gravely concerned over the lack of accountability for serious crimes which is fuelling impunity throughout the country," stated Commission Chairperson Yasmin Sooka. "Those responsible for this war against civilians must be stopped with the perpetrators of these horrific acts brought to justice," she added.
 
Over the course of the Commission''s visit to South Sudan, eastern Ethiopia and northern Uganda (11-22 December) Ms. Sooka and fellow Commissioner Andrew Clapham met with numerous victims of the conflict who shared harrowing accounts of indiscriminate attacks, revenge killings, torture, abduction of women and children, forced displacement, looting and burning of homes and crops, starvation, rape and other forms of sexual violence. In a country where food insecurity is acute, crops are destroyed leaving villages starving.
 
"We are deeply disturbed by what we witnessed and heard throughout our visit. The deprivation and range of sexual violence are hard to describe, people are targeted and suffering just for being who they are. The atrocities and violations are no longer just confined to a few parts of South Sudan; they are happening all across South Sudan," Professor Clapham stated.
 
While in South Sudan the Commissioners travelled to Wau, Bor and Akobo and visited Protection of Civilian (PoC) sites in Juba and Wau where individuals and families have sought protection from the violence and are provided the essentials of daily life by non-governmental organizations and humanitarian agencies. The Commissioners met with camp leaders, elders, and women''s and youth representatives.
 
In Wau the Commission met with an 89 nine-year-old widow who described how her husband and two sons were shot in front of her and how she too begged for her life. Several witnesses and victims described how they were forced to flee their villages as they watched their homes burned and family and friends killed before their eyes. A 60-year old woman told the Commission how she was gang raped by several soldiers and left for dead.
 
Many of the women the Commission met spoke of how they were sexually abused when their homes were attacked, often when they were collecting firewood. The Commission also heard of young men who were gang raped, often in front of family members. The Commission was also told that young men have been forced to rape relatives in front of family members. "Those perpetrating these crimes seem to be intent on breaking all social norms resulting in societies being torn apart," Ms. Sooka stated.
 
In Akobo, the Commission met with a number of internally displaced people who explained in great detail how they fled recent fighting in the Jonglei region and their trek of some 160 kilometers to the border town with Ethiopia, where they were now struggling to survive by eating leaves from trees and where their children were not able to attend school as they had no money for the fees.
 
"As another Human Rights Day passes and the world''s focus shifts to other matters people here feel forgotten and are really suffering horrific violations of their rights. The scarcity of food in many parts of the country is worrying, while incidents of rape and killing continue. The situation is really tragic," stated Professor Clapham..
 
Equally disturbing testimonies were shared with the Commissioners during their visits with refugees in Gambella, Ethiopia and northern Uganda. Those the Commission met with included several visibly traumatized unaccompanied minors who described the horrors and overwhelming sense of insecurity that forced them to flee the world''s newest nation state.


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States’ duty to tackle tax evasion and mobilise resources for human rights
by International Bar Association
 
14 December 2017
 
The principal assertion of a new report by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) is that states have a legal obligation to mobilise all resources at their disposal, including those that could be collected through taxation, to satisfy minimum essential levels of human rights. It further asserts that, with capital flight depriving nations of vast amounts of tax revenue, states facilitating, or actively promoting, tax abuse at the domestic or cross-border level may be in violation of international human rights law.
 
The report, The Obligation to Mobilise Resources: Bridging Human Rights, Sustainable Development Goals, and Economic and Fiscal Policies, is published against the backdrop of increased awareness of the relationship between economic policies and human rights; greater scrutiny of inequality within, and between, countries; austerity measures implemented following the 2007–2008 global financial crisis; and insufficiently regulated financial flows.
 
In addition, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (the ‘Agenda’), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015 by the heads of state and governments of 193 countries at a special UN summit, provides renewed emphasis on the question of the mobilisation of resources. The Agenda is explicitly anchored in human rights norms and principles, and recognises in paragraphs 18–20 that a rights-based approach should underpin all poverty reduction efforts.
 
As part of the Agenda, all 193 UN states have committed to ‘strengthen domestic resource mobilization, including through international support to developing countries, to improve domestic capacity for tax and other revenue collection’ (Sustainable Development Goal 17.1)and ‘significantly reduce illicit financial flows’ (Sustainable Development Goal 16.4).
 
IBAHRI Co-Chair Helena Kennedy QC stated: ‘When tax havens are allowed to continue to operate in a manner that starves developing countries of billions worth of potential income, this points to an unwillingness, rather than inability, by the international community to fulfil the particular UN Sustainable Development Goals to reduce inequality within and among countries. To maximise available resources in a non-discriminatory manner for the protection of human rights should be a moral goal for all.’
 
She added: ‘As the poorest and most vulnerable people around the world have felt the impacts of a global financial crisis, austerity policies, corruption and tax evasion, our new report demonstrates clearly that many states may have been side-stepping their obligation to maximise the resources available to protect the rights of all people.’
 
Based on a detailed examination of UN treaty bodies and the views of the UN Special Procedures, the purpose of the report is to ascertain the current interpretation of the scope and content of the obligation of states to mobilise resources for the realisation of human rights.
 
To this end, the assessments of the Special Procedures – independent human rights experts who report to, and advise, the UN on human rights issues – are essential to the debate addressing resource diversion and foregone tax revenues in compliance with human rights.
 
Topics such as the legal basis and guiding principles around the obligation to mobilise resources, as well as the opportunities and challenges in relation to that obligation, are covered in the report, which includes a number of recommendations, such as:
 
When addressing issues of resource mobilisation, special procedures and treaty bodies should ensure greater coordination among themselves, as well as the consistency and complementarity of their analyses.
 
Human rights monitoring bodies should consistently apply the legal developments related to resource mobilisation when reviewing states’ reports or undertaking country missions.
 
Special procedures and treaty bodies should:
 
Regularly request information from states on how they have adopted specific policy decisions: whether or not they have weighed costs and benefits of all policy choices and if policy trade-offs were explicitly addressed.
 
Provide more concrete, practical and detailed guidance to states about all aspects of the obligation to mobilise resources, including drawing attention to the prerequisite of the rule of law.
 
Consolidate, strengthen and further develop legal standards and methodologies to assess whether or not states have utilised all alternatives at their disposal for resource mobilisation.
 
Define the role and responsibilities of multinational corporations and other business enterprises in resource mobilisation for the realisation of human rights.
 
Develop a legal framework with which to assess tax lawyers, accounting and consulting firms’ responsibility for creating the mechanisms that companies and wealthy individuals use to avoid paying taxes.
 
Further, it is suggested that, when implementing austerity measures, states should not use the financial crisis to justify actions that amount to violations of human rights obligations, such as curtailing access to healthcare, education and other essential services, particularly for the most vulnerable in society.
 
IBAHRI Co-Chair Ambassador Hans Corell commented: ‘Broad in scope, the report demonstrates that states must garner and use resources in a non-discriminatory manner to ensure access to basic services for all, because the issue of resource mobilisation is at the core of the realisation of civil, political, social, cultural and economic human rights.
 
To ensure the adequate functioning of crucial state institutions, including the judiciary, the police and legal aid services, without which there can be no efficient access to justice nor protection of human rights, states must ensure that all available resources are properly mobilised as a matter of priority.’
 
He added: ‘The report is relevant to all countries, particularly those criticised by the UN for austerity programmes seen as violating human rights. The international community needs to act swiftly to reduce economic, social and geographical disparities and provide wealth redistribution to redress systemic discrimination and spur progress towards substantive equality.’
 
* Access the report via the link below.


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