Egypt: Mass death sentences – a mockery of justice

GENEVA, Switzerland, March 31, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — A group of eight United Nations human rights experts* today urged the Egyptian authorities to quash the 529 death sentences announced in Egypt last week and give the defendants new and fair trials, so as to ensure respect of international human rights law.

“The right to life is a fundamental right, not a toy to be played with. If the death penalty is to be used at all in countries which have not abolished it, international law requires the most stringent respect of a number of fundamental standards,” the experts said.

On 24 March 2014, 529 individuals were sentenced to death in Egypt on charges related to the events leading to the ousting of the Government of President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. At least 600 more individuals are currently under trial for similar charges.

“We are appalled by the lack of clarity of the charges under which each individual was sentenced to death. Reports that some of them received capital punishment for charges of unlawful gathering, or any other offence not involving murder, indicate a clear violation of international law,” the experts stressed, recalling the “most serious crimes” provision under international law, according to which only crimes of intentional killing may be punishable by death.

The experts also expressed deep concern about numerous procedural irregularities reported during the recent proceedings, such as limited access to lawyers, trials in absentia, or the mass imposition of the death sentences. “The conduct of trials in such conditions is in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a party,” they said.

“International law also requires that, in cases of capital punishment, trials must meet the highest standards of fairness and due process,” they noted.

“The imposition of the sentence of death on 529 defendants, after a two-day trial that was rife of procedural irregularities, and on unclear or sometimes insignificant charges makes a mockery of justice,” added the experts. “There is a clear need for a serious and comprehensive reform in any legal system that allows for such developments to occur.”

“In absence of fair trial and due process guarantees and respect of Egypt’s international obligations, all verdicts, but particularly those which impose the death penalty, are likely to undermine any prospects for reconciliation within the Egyptian society,” they warned.

“We will closely follow the situation, including all trials, and remind the Egyptian authorities how crucial it is that the future of the Egyptian society be based on dialogue, justice, and respect of human rights,” they added.

(*) The experts: Mr. Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Ms. Gabriela Knaul, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Mr. Juan Méndez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Mr. Pablo de Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence; Mr. Mads Andenas, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mr. Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mr. Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mr. Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.

Source: APO

Categories: African Press Organization

New support to tackle dire food security situation in South Sudan / United Kingdom gives $13.7 million to FAO’s emergency operations to help food producers in conflict-affected country

ROME, Italy, March 31, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Government of the United Kingdom has released $13.7 million in emergency funding to FAO to help conflict-affected families in South Sudan restore their agriculture-based livelihoods and stave off an increasingly alarming food security situation.

“Some seven million people are facing the risk of hunger, including nearly one million people who have fled their homes as a result of the fighting and the fear it generates. It’s not only people who are being displaced. Over ten million head of livestock have been taken away from their usual grazing routes,” says Sue Lautze, who heads FAO’s team in South Sudan.

The support for FAO’s work from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) comes at a critical time.

“We are working under intense deadlines” says Lautze. “We have an extremely tight window in which to deliver seeds and other vitally-needed inputs to farmers. It’s already starting to rain in some areas. Once the rain comes, it is too late to plant and vast areas become inaccessible.”

DFID’s GBP 8.3 million ($13.7 million) grant will ensure that FAO is able to reach households in time so that they can get seeds in the ground during the current planting season.

FAO has appealed for $77 million to assist about 2.3 million people with immediate support designed to help them plant rapidly-maturing vegetables and staple crops, as well as to catch fish and contain livestock diseases.

FAO’s support is built around a two-pronged approach that helps vulnerable households in conflict-affected areas begin to rebuild their shattered livelihoods, while also providing support to farmers in non-conflict-affected areas. FAO can work with those farmers to increase the supply of food in the coming months, to help mitigate the impact of the looming food crisis.

“We have an important window of opportunity to help millions of people in South Sudan, but we have no time to lose in this increasingly alarming situation,” Lautze said.

“Funding from generous partners like the United Kingdom helps FAO to support people in setting up farming and marketing operations wherever they are, keeping their livestock fed and vaccinated, and getting equipment to catch fish.”

FAO is putting together a range of different emergency livelihood kits, in the range of $30 each. One kit can provide either six months of staple crops for one family, a year’s worth of diversified and nutrient-rich vegetables, animal health services for 80 families for one month, or enough fish to feed 20 families a day.

In less affected parts of the country, the success of the main planting season will be critical for medium-term food security in the country. In Western Equatoria, which has had the highest production rates in the country over the past five years, farmers have not been directly affected by the conflict and have already started preparing their fields.

Farmers are concerned that the crisis has disrupted input supply chains, markets and development initiatives throughout the country. FAO aims to help them gain access to quality seeds, tools, training and other support needed to ensure reasonable production in 2014. This is important for ensuring food availability later this year, particularly given the country’s current cereal production deficit of 400 000 tonnes.

FAO directly supports farmers through its seed-multiplication programmes, through which producers in less affected states produce seeds for humanitarian operations in conflict-affected areas in eastern states.

Millions at risk

Of the seven million people considered to be at risk of some level of food insecurity, some 3.7 million people were estimated to be facing acute or emergency levels of food insecurity in February. UN agencies and non-governmental organizations together have called for $1.27 billion to meet urgent humanitarian needs in the first half of 2014.

FAO has mobilized more than $6 million to date and is in discussion with a variety of donors for another $25 million, but available funding falls far short of what is needed to get help to families.

“Time is of the essence given that most of the roads in the most affected states will be flooded during the rainy season,” Lautze added. “We will need to consider switching from delivering by road to delivering by air. This is both more expensive and less effective, but we must do everything we can to help in this time of need.”

Source: APO

Categories: African Press Organization

EU-Africa Business Forum: Working together towards sustainable growth and employment

BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, March 31, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — To promote sustainable and inclusive growth in both Africa and the EU, European Commission Vice-President, Antonio Tajani, and Commissioner for Development, Andris Piebalgs, will today take part in the 5th EU-Africa Business Forum in Brussels. The event brings together more than 500 high-level representatives from European and African business, politics and public institutions for two days (31 March/1 April) of discussions.

Debates will focus on common challenges such as the stake of young people in today’s economies, the role of banks for inclusive growth and financing issues for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and on specific issues such as raw material, risk capital, sustainable energy or space cooperation. Prior to the forum, Commissioner Piebalgs also announced two new EU programmes to support the private sector in West Africa and Madagascar.

Vice-President Tajani, Commissioner responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said ahead of the event: “Africa is on the move. The accelerating industrial development of Africa is a reality. The developing regions and countries that are sharing the benefits of globalisation are the rapidly industrialising ones. The European Union and Africa have genuine interest in increasing bilateral trade, investment and market integration in mutually beneficial relations to boost strong sustainable and inclusive growth and create jobs”.

Commissioner Piebalgs commented: “Africa has become one of the fastest growing regions in the world over the last decade, but we must accelerate the creation of decent and productive jobs to ensure that the benefits of this growth are being shared more evenly. The private sector has a key role to play in this and the Commission will soon present a policy paper on how to modernise EU support for developing the private sector in developing countries and how to strengthen its role in achieving inclusive and sustainable growth there where it’s most needed.”

A new EU-funded project recently launched in Madagascar will enable the private sector to better support inclusive growth and be more competitive on the national, regional and international markets. With €8 million of EU funding, activities will include support and training for business associations (e.g. chambers of commerce) so they have the knowledge to increase competitiveness among their members and to help them represent economic interests in public-private dialogues and negotiations. Specific support will be given to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in the form of training in marketing/management techniques, help with accessing finance and preparing business plans. They will also receive help in improving product quality and finding market opportunities.

A second EU programme aims to make businesses in West Africa more competitive and help to improve the business and investment climate in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Among other things, it will help the region and its countries to adopt policies that can attract investments (EU funding: 20 million).

In the centre of discussions Vice-President Tajani will have during the summit will be sustainable access to raw materials as well as access to high quality and affordable medicines. He will discuss with his counterparts cooperation projects in the fields of space technologies which can play a positive role in the developing world to favour sustainable development, such as food security, health and education. Furthermore, Vice-President Tajani will encourage enterprises in African countries to seize new business opportunities under the COPERNICUS programme allowing the access to its satellite data.

Tajani will highlight the benefits of use of satellite navigation in Africa under the Commission’s EGNOS programme which will help to optimise transport with the use of satellite guidance as well as bring an enormous increase in the safety of the African skies, guiding planes safely to airports along regional and international routes. Benefits associated to this safety increase in Africa are estimated at more than €1,100 million!

Background

The 5th EU-Africa Business Forum takes place on the eve of the EU-Africa Summit. It will be jointly opened by European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso, and African Union Commission Chairperson, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. On 1 April, Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht will participate and the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, will give concluding remarks.

The 4th EU-Africa Summit will take place in Brussels on 2-3 April 2014. It will bring together African and EU leaders, as well as the leaders of EU and African Union institutions. Under the theme “Investing in People, Prosperity and Peace”, participants will discuss topics including peace, security, investment, climate change and migration. Previous summits took place in Cairo (2000), Lisbon (2007) and Tripoli (2010).

EU-Africa relations are largely based on the Joint Africa-EU Strategy, adopted in 2007. Alongside this strategy, a 2011-2013 action plan, agreed at the last EU-Africa summit in 2010, sets out concrete targets within specific areas of cooperation, such as peace and security, democratic governance and human rights.

The 2014 summit will be an opportunity to take a fresh look at the EU-Africa partnership, to highlight some of the results that have been achieved, and to explore areas for future cooperation.

Source: APO

Categories: African Press Organization

NUSOJ protests broadcast journalist’s detention in Mogadishu

MOGADISHU, Somalia, March 31, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) protests today’s arrest of broadcast journalist by the federal police in Mogadishu.

Nuradin Hassan Ibrahim, editor of SkyFM Radio in Mogadishu, has been arrested at the Crimes Investigations Department (CID) headquarters in Mogadishu, following a call to summon him from the officials. Nuradin has been questioned on how his station has obtained news about a passport stolen from an official stationed at the Prime Minister’s office.

Nuradin reportedly answered all the questions satisfactorily, but has been arrested due to the influence of General Abdullahi Gafow, head of Immigration and Naturalization Services who lodged complaint against SkyFM at the CID.

“This amounts to physical intimidation of a journalist and appears to be in direct breach of Somalia’s provisional Constitution. It clearly demonstrates how journalists in Somalia are soft target for the authorities who are supposed to uphold principles of rule of law, and respect for independent media to report without fear from retaliation,” said Omar Faruk Osman, Secretary General of NUSOJ.

NUSOJ call on the Federal Police to immediately release Nuradin Hassan Ibrahim, and allow him to exercise his constitutional freedom as a citizen in general, and as a journalist in particular.

SkyFM is a sister station of Radio Shabelle, which has been subject of systematic abuses for a number of times in the last couple of years.

Source: APO

Categories: African Press Organization

Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration Anne C. Richard Travels to Switzerland and Chad

WASHINGTON, March 31, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Media Note

Office of the Spokesperson

Washington, DC

March 29, 2014

Assistant Secretary Anne C. Richard will travel to Geneva, Switzerland on Monday, March 31, 2014 for meetings with officials from United Nations and other international humanitarian organizations.€€

On Tuesday, April 1, 2014, Assistant Secretary Richard will travel to Ndjamena, Chad, where she will meet with Chadian government officials and representatives of both international and nongovernmental organizations. Assistant Secretary Richard will also travel to southern Chad with representatives from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to visit refugees from the Central African Republic living in camps as well as Chadians who had been living in the Central African Republic but have had to flee the violence there.€€

In FY 2013, the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) obligated over $43 million for humanitarian activities in Chad. Chad is currently host to well over 500,000 refugees, vulnerable migrants, and other populations of concern from the crises in the Central African Republic and Sudan.

Source: APO

Categories: African Press Organization

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