UN World Court acquits Serbia of genocide in Bosnia finds it guilty

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the main United Nations judicial organ, today overwhelmingly acquitted Serbia of committing genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Balkan war of the 1990s, but found it guilty of failing to prevent genocide in the massacre of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslims in the town of Srebrenica. At the same time the ICJ, also known as the World Court, rejected Bosnia’s request for payment of reparations from Serbia, successor to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) of the 1990s, for the worst massacre in Europe since World War II. The judgment, which is binding and not open to appeal, called on Serbia to transfer Ratko Mladic and others indicted for genocide to the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), a separate judicial body with a mandate to try individuals. “The Court observes that the FRY was in a position of influence over the Bosnian Serbs who devised and implemented the genocide in Srebrenica, owing to the strength of the political, military and financial links between the FRY on the one hand and the Republika Srpska (the Serb component of Bosnia and Herzegovina) and the VRS (Republika Srpska’s army) on the other,” the Court ruled by 12 votes to 3. “The Court further recalls that although it has not found that the information available to the Belgrade authorities indicated, as a matter of certainty, that genocide was imminent, they could hardly have been unaware of the serious risk of it. “In the view of the Court, the Yugoslav federal authorities should have made the best efforts within their power to try and prevent the tragic events then taking shape, whose scale might have been surmised. Yet the Respondent has not shown that it took any initiative to prevent what happened, or any action on its part to avert the atrocities which were committed” as required by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The court also found, by 14 to 1, that Serbia violated its obligations under the Convention by having failed to transfer Mr. Mladic, indicted for genocide and complicity in genocide in Srebrenica, for trial by the ICTY. But on the overall charges brought by Bosnia, the Court ruled by 13 to 2 that Serbia had not committed genocide, nor had it conspired, through its organs or persons whose acts engage its responsibility under customary international law, in violation of its obligations under the Convention. It found by 11 votes to 4 that Serbia had not been complicit in genocide. While there is overwhelming evidence that massive killings throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina were perpetrated during the conflict, the Court said it was not convinced that these were accompanied by “the specific intent on the part of the perpetrators to destroy, in whole or in part, the group of Bosnian Muslims,” although they may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. But with regard to Srebrenica, the Court concluded that the Main Staff of the VRS had “the necessary specific intent to destroy in part the group of Bosnian Muslims (specifically the Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica) and that accordingly acts of genocide were committed by the VRS.” It noted that while there is little doubt that the atrocities in Srebrenica were committed, at least in part, with the resources which the perpetrators possessed as a result of the general policy of aid and assistance by the FRY, one of the very specific conditions for Serbia’s legal responsibility was not met since “it has not been conclusively established that, at the crucial time, the FRY supplied aid to the perpetrators of the genocide in full awareness that the aid supplied would be used to commit genocide.” But the FRY was in a position of influence over the Bosnian Serbs who devised and implemented the genocide in Srebrenica, owing to the strength of the political, military and financial links between the FRY on the one hand and the Republika Srpska and the VRS on the other. On the issue of reparations the court determined that its findings “constitute appropriate satisfaction, and that the case is not one in which an order for payment of compensation… would be appropriate.” Since it had not been shown that the genocide would in fact have been averted if the FRY had tried to prevent it, “financial compensation for the failure to prevent the genocide at Srebrenica is not the appropriate form of reparation,” the judgment said. “The Court considers that the most appropriate form of satisfaction would be a declaration in the operative clause of the Judgment that the Respondent has failed to comply with the obligation to prevent the crime of genocide.” 26 February 2007The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the main United Nations judicial organ, today overwhelmingly acquitted Serbia of committing genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Balkan war of the 1990s, but found it guilty of failing to prevent genocide in the massacre of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslims in the town of Srebrenica. read more

SecretaryGeneral appoints first members of internal justice advisory unit for UN

8 April 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today approved the appointment of the first members of a new body that will advise on the first overhaul of the United Nations’ internal justice system in 60 years, as outlined by the General Assembly. The five-member Internal Justice Council will consist of a staff representative, a management representative and two distinguished external jurists, one nominated by the staff and one by management, all of whom were approved today. The fifth member, the chair, will be a distinguished juror chosen by these four.The two members nominated by staff, following a process inclusive of all staff unions, are Jenny Clift of Australia, a Vienna-based senior legal officer with the International Trade Law Division of the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA), and Geoffrey Robertson of the United Kingdom and Australia, who served as the first President of the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL). The two members nominated by management are Maria Vicien-Milburn of Argentina, Director of the General Legal Division of the OLA, and Sinha Basnayake of Sri Lanka, who previously served in the same position and has since served the Organization in various advisory capacities on legal and administrative issues.The General Assembly decided to reshape the Organization’s justice system after a 2006 panel concluded that the administration of justice in the UN “fails to meet many basic standards of due process established in international human rights instruments.”In helping to redress that situation, the Internal Justice Council will advise the body on suitable candidates for the positions of judges on the future UN Dispute Tribunal and the UN Appeals Tribunal. Modelled on similar mechanisms at other international public organizations, it is also tasked with drafting a code of conduct for the judges, and for providing its views on the implementation of the new system to the Assembly. read more

Time for Iraqis to make political progress UN political chief says

Briefing the Council on the latest report on the work of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, warned that the security situation remains fragile and any recent gains could be lost unless they are consolidated with political progress. “Efforts must now focus on achieving the political gains necessary to build trust and confidence across community lines, and to improve the quality of life for all Iraqis, including the delivery of basic services and generating employment,” he said. Mr. Pascoe said the UN believed the best way to build trust was to tackle the issues “at the heart of each community’s competing visions for the future of Iraq,” such as the federal framework of the country, the handling of the status of the northern city of Kirkuk and other disputed areas and revenue-sharing agreements. “The potential is there, and it is ultimately up to the Iraqi people to make sound choices that will allow them to build a sustainable and lasting peace.” The Under-Secretary-General noted that discussions within the Iraqi parliament about the adoption of new electoral laws remains unresolved, although the UN was doing all it could to promote practical compromises. “A failure to come to agreement on a law at this time would be a major setback – not only for the prospects of elections this year but for the larger process of national reconciliation in Iraq.” The situation in Kirkuk has also become more tense and violent in the past week, in part because of the discord over the proposed electoral laws, and Mr. Pascoe stressed that the bloodshed illustrated “how the lack of dialogue and compromise could easily lead to renewed violence.” Strengthening the Iraqi economy must also be a top priority, the Under-Secretary-General added, observing that the spike in oil prices this year has not yet translated into improvements in the lives of ordinary citizens. “Unemployment rates remain stubbornly high, and the same governorates rate consistently low on key socio-economic indicators, such as unemployment, malnutrition and illiteracy. It is estimated that 60 per cent of Iraqis do not have access to one or more essential social services and 15 per cent lack food security.” Ambassador Alejandro Wolff of the United States, speaking on behalf of the Multinational Force (MNF) operating in Iraq, informed the Council that for the past three months the total number of security incidents had reached their lowest level in four years. Since June last year, overall attacks had decreased by 84 per cent and the number of civilian deaths from violence had dropped by 65 per cent. He attributed the gains to the work of both Iraqi and coalition security forces. 6 August 2008Iraqis must focus on political dialogue, reconciliation and bread-and-butter economic issues now that they are seeing improved security, the top United Nations political official told the Security Council today. read more

Leadership and partnership more important than ever Ban says on UN Day

“This is a crucial year in the life of our United Nations,” Mr. Ban noted, on the occasion of the 63rd anniversary of the founding of the Organization. “We have just passed the midpoint in the struggle to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he said, referring to the pledges world leaders made to halve extreme poverty and other ills by the target date of 2015.Mr. Ban pointed out that many countries are still not on track to reach the Goals on time. It was to address this development emergency that he brought together a broad coalition for change consisting of Governments, private sector leaders and civil society last month in New York, which generated “unprecedented” commitment in pledges and partnerships to help the world’s poor.He also expressed deep concern about the impact of the global financial crisis, which was the subject of a brainstorming session the Secretary-General held yesterday with five eminent economists and the head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP). Talks focused on “the international economic situation and, in particular, on the special challenges facing the developing countries in the context of the worldwide financial crisis and its likely consequences,” according to a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson.During the discussion with Nancy Birdsall of the Centre for Global Development, Dani Rodrik and Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard University, and Jeffrey Sachs and Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University, Mr. Ban stressed the need to keep the long-term objectives – such as the MDGs and the fight against extreme poverty, as well as the need for action against climate change – at the centre of the global agenda. The financial crisis will also be discussed today at the regular meeting of the Chief Executives Board (CEB), which includes the heads of the various UN specialized agencies and by the chiefs of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), otherwise known as the Bretton Woods institutions.“Never has leadership and partnership been more important,” Mr. Ban stressed. “We can see more clearly than ever that the threats of the twenty-first century spare no one. Climate change, the spread of disease and deadly weapons, and the scourge of terrorism all cross borders.” Global partnership has resulted in significant advances, he said, such as in the case of malaria, thanks to focused planning, greater funding, coordinated management and excellent science and technology.“Partnership is the way of the future,” he stated, pointing to the success achieved in combating the disease. “We need models like these to tackle other challenges.“Let us keep building on this as a way forward. There is no time to lose,” he said. “The United Nations must deliver results for a safer, healthier, more prosperous world. On this UN Day, I call on all partners and leaders to do their part and keep the promise.” 24 October 2008As the world contends with numerous crises, ranging from food insecurity and climate change to financial uncertainty and the development challenge, leadership and partnership are more important than ever to tackle today’s most pressing issues, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message marking United Nations Day. read more

Top UN envoy welcomes recent progress in Somali peace talks

26 November 2008The senior United Nations envoy to Somalia today welcomed the latest round of talks on critical issues – such as justice and reconciliation, the unity government and security issues – to further the peace process in the war-ravaged Horn of Africa nation. “I am very pleased to see the concerned parties moving forward with the support of the United Nations and the international community in accordance with the Djibouti Agreement,” said Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, referring to the peace deal reached in June with his help.Under that pact, Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) agreed to end their conflict and called on the UN to deploy an international stabilization force to the troubled nation, which has not had a functioning national government since 1991.A meeting of the High-Level Committee set up by the Agreement wrapped up yesterday in Djibouti, with participants agreeing to add 75 additional seats to the Parliament and reach out to groups outside the peace process, including women, the private sector and the diaspora.Those at the meeting agreed to the principle of sharing leadership positions and to extend the transitional period by two years.Mr. Ould-Abdallah characterized the gathering as “very encouraging because it advances the commitment made by both sides to form an inclusive Parliament and Unity Government.”The parties will now hold consultations with their respective constituencies, allies and leadership before meeting again under UN auspices.Somalia has been beset by fighting and massive humanitarian suffering for the past two decades but the violence has flared anew this year, particularly in and around the capital, Mogadishu, and caused widespread displacement.Last month, the two sides signed accords on a ceasefire to end their deadly conflict, the establishment of a unity government and military forces and the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops.Discussions on security are expected to focus on how the sides will address practical matters, such as final arrangements for ending armed confrontation and forming joint transitional forces, the envoy said.“We hope that the concerted efforts made here and the momentum gained in these last few days continue so that the new year sees Somali leaders working together, wholeheartedly and committed to the dignity of the Somali people,” Mr. Ould-Abdallah said. read more

Ban highlights collaboration between UN and Islamic bloc

At the OIC’s annual coordination meeting in New York, Mr. Ban congratulated the group – the collective voice of the Muslim world, representing one fifth of humanity – on its 40th anniversary. “I deeply appreciate your collaboration with the United Nations and look forward to working more closely together in addressing the threats and challenges of our times,” he said in a message delivered by Shaaban Shaaban, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly Affairs and Conference Management. He noted that the partnership between the UN and the OIC includes collaboration on preventive diplomacy and peace-building in Asia and Africa, whether it is cooperating on Iraqi elections or promoting efforts to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. Mr. Ban said he looked forward to further collaboration in Somalia, and urged the OIC to contribute the much-needed financial support to enable the Transitional Federal Government to expand its territorial control, maintain law and order, build institutions and deliver peace dividends.“Human security is not restricted to resolving political disputes such as these,” he noted. “We must promote human rights and good governance. “We must fight discrimination of any sort, including Islamophobia. We must fight faith-based violence, and foster tolerance, dialogue and mutual respect, as the UN Alliance of Civilizations initiative is doing,” he added. In addition, more must be done to create opportunities for young people, as well as equal opportunities for women through access to education, health initiatives, and ensuring their right to participate in the civic and political life of their countries, said the Secretary-General.“And to ensure the well-being of future generations, we must address the threat of climate change,” he concluded, saying he looked forward to OIC member countries doing their part to ‘seal the deal’ on an ambitious new agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions at December’s UN climate change conference in Copenhagen. 25 September 2009The United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) share the common goals of peace, security and global harmony, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, highlighting joint efforts in a range of hotspots around the world. read more

March elections offer Iraq chance to move beyond conflict to development Ban

Next month’s elections offer Iraqis the chance to move beyond the bloody conflict of the past seven years towards long-term political and economic stability, but armed groups may repeat their recent high-profile attacks to disrupt the process, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns in his latest report on the country.“I appeal to the people of Iraq not to be deterred, in the face of these and other criminal acts, from exercising their democratic rights,” he says, citing among other attacks the coordinated series of suicide bombings in Baghdad in December in which scores of civilians were killed and injured immediately after the successful adoption of the electoral law.“I also urge the Government of Iraq and its security forces to redouble efforts in the lead-up to the elections to ensure that the elections are as peaceful as possible,” he adds, stressing that every effort must be made to ensure that the poll is broadly participatory and as inclusive as possible.“A credible election process will greatly contribute to national reconciliation and give Iraqi leaders a new impetus to work together in a spirit of national unity to rebuild their country after years of conflict. It will also serve to strengthen Iraq’s sovereignty and independence at this key juncture in Iraq’s history as the United States prepares to draw down its military presence.”Mr. Ban pledges the full support of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), which has already helped in three previous polls, for the success of the 7 March elections in providing strong technical assistance to the Independent High Electoral Commission and helping to ensure that the results are widely accepted by the Iraqi people.Referring to the controversy over the possible disqualification of hundreds of candidates considered to have been closely linked to the Baath party of ousted, and later hanged, President Saddam Hussein, he calls for a transparent and non-discriminatory review, and appeals to all sided to use the mechanisms in place to submit complaints and abide by the final results once they are certified by the Federal Supreme Court.“I also hope that, once the new government is formed, the focus will shift gradually to accelerating the country’s reconstruction and development,” he writes, calling on those newly elected to resolve political and constitutional matters that could hinder Iraq’s long-term political and economic stability, by adopting a viable revenue-sharing arrangement, a hydrocarbon law and settling the issue of disputed territories between the regions.“In this regard, the Iraqi people will expect to see greater efficiency, accountability and transparency on the part of their elected officials. If ordinary Iraqis witness an improvement in their daily lives, they will begin to feel that their votes made a difference,” he says, highlighting the support of the entire UN system for a steady shift of focus from humanitarian response to longer-term development. He notes that 18.9 million voters have been allocated to some 50,000 polling stations in an election which will see 6,600 candidates nominated from 86 political entities or coalitions. The UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) has funded an initiative to train over 29,000 domestic observers to monitor the polls.UNAMI has helped develop key procedures for a range of polling and counting processes, including those for regular polling and counting in polling stations on election day, absentee voting for internally displaced persons (IDPs) registered to vote for their governorate of origin, and special voting using either the voter list or a conditional ballot for several categories of voters unable to cast ballots in regular polling stations on election day.UNAMI electoral advisers have also trained Electoral Commission staff on best practices, and this staff will now train 360 governorate trainers over a two-week period. This will be followed by a cascade training programme that will ultimately ensure that approximately 300,000 polling station staff are able to conduct polling and counting processes.“UNAMI is supporting the Electoral Commission in developing a robust and timely complaints mechanism to ensure that the credibility of the results is not eroded by a delay in the adjudication of complaints,” Mr. Ban adds.Reviewing the past three months since his last report, Mr. Ban cites continuing ethnic political disagreements in the Ninewa Governorate between Kurds, Arabs and others as “a matter of concern,” while noting the agreement of the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government set up joint security structures in Kirkuk, Ninewa and Diyala to ease tensions. He calls on both governments to protect the rights of minorities and end forced displacement of minorities. “During the past year, hundreds of civilians have reportedly been killed in attacks that have targeted the Christian, Shabak, Turkmen and Yazidi communities,” he writes. Among humanitarian priorities for the coming year, he includes the impact of drought, mine action, protection for IDPs, refugees and returnees, and supporting critical social safety nets.“The protection of civilians, particularly women, children and minority groups, remains a serious concern, as do the ongoing constraints due to lack of access and security that continue to hinder the ability of humanitarian organizations to effectively assess and respond to unmet needs,” he says. “I again thank the donor community for its support in addressing humanitarian issues throughout this period and encourage continued engagement.” 12 February 2010Next month’s elections offer Iraqis the chance to move beyond the bloody conflict of the past seven years towards long-term political and economic stability, but armed groups may repeat their recent high-profile attacks to disrupt the process, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns in his latest report on the country. read more

Ban welcomes deal between Eritrea and Djibouti to resolve border conflict

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh signed the agreement on Sunday in a deal reached under the auspices of Qatar and its Emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani.“The Secretary-General is encouraged by this positive development, which he believes will contribute to long-term peace and stability in the Horn of Africa region,” he said in a statement issued by his spokesperson in which he also voiced deep appreciation for the Qatari Emir’s mediation efforts.“The agreement entrusts Qatar with establishing a mechanism for the resolution of the border dispute and the normalization of relations between the two countries.”The deal ends the dispute that erupted in early 2008 when, following weeks of tensions and military build-up, the two countries’ armed forces clashed over an un-demarcated area in the Red Sea known as Doumeira, killing 35 people and leaving dozens of others wounded.In January 2009 the Security Council adopted a resolution demanding that Eritrea pull its forces from the disputed area and cooperate with diplomatic initiatives, and welcoming Djibouti’s withdrawal of its forces to its positions before the dispute.A United Nations fact-finding mission sent to the region after the dispute flared was welcomed by Djibouti but blocked by Eritrea, which refused to meet with it or with any envoy of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who had offered to use his good offices to help resolve the issue. 8 June 2010Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the agreement signed by Eritrea and Djibouti to resolve their two-year border dispute through a negotiated settlement. read more

General Assembly defers consideration on European Union proposal

14 September 2010The General Assembly voted today to defer consideration on a proposal to allow the recently appointed senior officials of the European Union to address the 192-member body on behalf of the regional bloc. The proposal was defeated after 76 Member States voted early this afternoon in favour of postponing debate on a resolution drafted by the EU, compared to 71 countries against and 26 others abstaining.The EU is seeking to allow its President Herman van Rompuy and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton address the General Assembly on behalf of all 27 members of the bloc.Those posts were created as part of the entry into force last year of the Treaty of Lisbon, which reformed the EU.Currently a representative of the country holding the rotating presidency of the Council of Ministers of the EU can speak on behalf of the bloc when addressing the General Assembly. read more

UNESCO unveils winners of annual literacy awards

Literacy programmes in Burundi, Mexico, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the United States won the 2011 International Literacy Prizes of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The awards, worth $20,000 each, will be distributed in September at International Literacy Day celebrations in New Delhi, India, the agency announced today.UNESCO identified the winners as: The National Literacy Service of Burundi won one of two King Sejong Literacy Prizes for its approach that links functional literacy to daily life issues and to topics related to peace and tolerance. The National Institute for the Education of Adults of Mexico won the other award for its Bilingual Literacy for Life programme, which has helped reduce illiteracy rates among indigenous populations, especially women, and for improving indigenous people’s ability to exercise their rights. The US-based Room to Read shared the Confucius Prize for Literacy for a programme on promoting gender equality and literacy through local language publishing. Operating in nine countries – Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam and Zambia – the programme has assisted communities in developing culturally relevant reading materials in local and minority languages. Collectif Alpha Ujuvi in the DRC also won for its programme called Peaceful Coexistence of Communities and Good Governance in North Kivu, which attempts to resolve tensions and conflicts among individuals and communities through developing literacy. The agency said honourable mentions were also awarded to: Allah Bakhsh Malik, Secretary, Government of the Punjab, Pakistan, for leadership in the implementation of the Adult Education and Vocational Skills programme; and the City Literacy Coordinating Council, Tagum City, the Philippines, for its Peace Management Literacy and Continuing Education through its “Night Market” programme, which uses peace education activities, literacy teaching and business entrepreneurship to generate jobs for marginalized populations. 28 July 2011Literacy programmes in Burundi, Mexico, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the United States won the 2011 International Literacy Prizes of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). read more

UN Human Rights Council strongly condemns abuses by Syrian authorities

The 47-member body also urged the Syrian Government to meet its responsibility to protect its people, in a resolution adopted during a special session in Geneva to discuss the report of the independent international commission of inquiry into the crackdown that was released this week. The text – which received 37 votes in favour to four against (China, Cuba, Ecuador and Russia), while six countries abstained – also established a mandate of a Special Rapporteur, or investigator, on the situation of human rights in Syria. Earlier today, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay urged immediate action by the international community to protect the people of Syria from the Government’s “ruthless” repression.“In light of the manifest failure of the Syrian authorities to protect their citizens, the international community needs to take urgent and effective measures to protect the Syrian people.”In addition to the number of those killed, tens of thousands have been arrested since March, when a public uprising began across Syria, in line with similar movements across North Africa and the Middle East.More than 14,000 are reported to be in detention as a result of the crackdown, at least 12,400 have sought refuge in neighbouring countries and tens of thousands have been internally displaced, said Ms. Pillay. Reports of increased armed attacks by the opposition forces, including the so-called Free Syrian Army, against the Syrian military and security apparatus are also of concern, she added.The report by the three-member commission of inquiry concluded that Syrian security and military forces have committed crimes against humanity against civilians, including acts of killings, torture, rape and imprisonment. The report – based on interviews with more than 200 victims and witnesses of human rights violations – documents widespread, systematic and gross violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. “The levels of excessive force used against civilians, the scale of the attacks, their repetitive nature and their coordination has led the commission to the conclusion that these crimes have apparently been committed pursuant to State policy,” the commission’s chairperson, Paulo Pinheiro, told the Council.He added that the unrest has directly affected the lives of as many as three million Syrians. Virtually all victims and witnesses had stated that one or more of their family members, neighbours or friends were killed, wounded, arrested or tortured since the protests started.“The extreme suffering of the population inside and outside the country must be addressed as a matter of urgency,” stated Mr. Pinheiro. “Victims should expect nothing less from the United Nations and its Member States.” Aside from its findings, the commission called on the Syrian Government to immediately end the ongoing rights violations, to initiate investigations of these incidents and to bring the perpetrators to justice.Ms. Pillay stated that international and independent monitoring bodies, including her office (OHCHR) and the League of Arab States, must be allowed into the country, particularly to all places of detention, and all humanitarian workers must be guaranteed immediate and unhindered access to the country. In August the High Commissioner had encouraged the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC).“The commission’s report reinforces that the need for international accountability has even greater urgency today,” she stated.The Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a statement that he is greatly disturbed by the confirmed reports of “abhorrent” abuses committed against children in Syria, including sexual violence against children in places of detention.“Such blatant disregard for children’s lives must not be ignored,” Anthony Lake stated, urging the Government to abide by its commitments to uphold the rights of children.Farida Shaheed, Independent Expert in the field of cultural rights, read out a statement on behalf of all UN human rights experts, in which they voiced dismay at the fact that the number of deaths had doubled from 2,000 to 4,000 in just three months. She pointed to “alarming” numbers of reported extrajudicial executions and injuries. There was also great concern that tens of thousands had allegedly been arbitrarily arrested and detained in overcrowded detention facilities and many had reportedly been subjected to torture and ill-treatment, as well as reported cases of enforced disappearances, possibly in the thousands.Syria’s representative, Faysal Khabbaz Haboui, said that the commission’s report was not objective, and made criticisms while ignoring information given to it by the Syrian Government, including new legislation to bring about reform. The draft resolution before the Council, he said, would prolong the crisis and deliver an erroneous message from those who supported terrorism and violence, rather than pursuing constructive and positive dialogue. 2 December 2011The United Nations Human Rights Council today strongly condemned the continued abuses by the Syrian authorities as part of its violent crackdown against protesters which has led to the deaths of more than 4,000 people since March, including over 300 children. read more

IMF urges Ottawa to cut back on mortgage insurance through CMHC

Ottawa should consider phasing out insuring home mortgage through Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., the International Monetary Fund said Wednesday.[np_storybar title=”According to the IMF, Canada has the most overvalued housing market in the world” link=”https://business.financialpost.com/2013/11/27/according-to-the-imf-canada-has-the-most-overvalued-housing-market-in-the-world/”%5D [/np_storybar]The advice is contained in the IMF’s latest economic report card on Canada, which projects modest economic growth of 2.25% for the country next year.Such a recommendation, surprising from an international financial organization, appears to side with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, who has recently questioned whether the federal government should be in the business of insuring higher-risk mortgages at all.Some analysts have credited the system for providing much needed confidence in Canada’s housing sector during the 2008-09 crisis, which many believe was sparked by a crisis in the U.S. mortgage market.The IMF concedes that the current system has its advantages for stability. But it says it also exposes the government, or taxpayers, to financial system risks and might distort the market as a whole in favour of mortgages over more productive uses of capital.[np_storybar title=”Homeowners feel the pinch of rising prices, mortgage rates” link=”https://business.financialpost.com/2013/11/27/canadian-homeowners-are-feeling-the-pinch-of-rising-prices-mortgage-rates/”%5DRBC’s latest research on how much income is needed to maintain a home shows that affordability deteriorated over the summer, the second consecutive drop. Find out more [/np_storybar]“We think banks lend too much to mortgages and too little to small and medium enterprises,” Roberto Cardarelli, the IMF mission chief for Canada, told reporters in a briefing in Toronto.“We suspect the fact that banks may benefit from government-backed insurance on mortgages (…) it sort of makes it easier for banks to do mortgages than other kinds of lending which presumably, we think, is going to be more useful for the real economy.”The Washington-based financial institutions said further measures should be considered to “encourage appropriate risk retention by private sector and increase the market share of private mortgage insurers.”It cautioned, however, that if any structural changes are made, they should be gradual to avoid unintended consequences.The IMF report, released Wednesday morning, forecasts that Canada’s economy as a whole will start benefiting next year from a pickup in the U.S. economy, leading to greater demand for Canadian exports and renewed business investment.Read more on the IMF’s forecast for Canada: Bank of Canada can afford to put off rate hike until 2015 read more

Target Canada reaches deal with former landlords as it nears vote on

TORONTO — Target Canada Co. said Friday it has reached an agreement with its former landlords whose leases were terminated as part of the company’s plans to shut down its Canadian stores.The retailer said the settlement provides a framework for a resolution of its court-supervised windup and deals with the landlords’ claims against both Target Canada and Target Corp.Under the agreement, the landlords will support the company’s plan under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act.Landlords holding guarantees from Target Corp. will receive payment in exchange for a contractual release.The U.S. retailer announced last year it was shutting all of its Canadian stores, only two years after its highly anticipated launch north of the border.Target said the monitor overseeing the process estimates that unsecured creditors will receive approximately 66 per cent to 77 per cent of what they are owed.The company said it expects creditors to have a chance to vote on its plan on May 25 and, subject to approval, intends to seek court approval on June 2. read more

Key foreign currency quotations

Quotations for key foreign currencies in terms of the Canadian dollar. Quotations are nominal, for information purposes only.Canadian dollar value on Friday, the previous day, three-months and one-year: Currency Fri Thu 3 months Year U.S. dollar 1.2390 1.2536 1.3500 1.3086 British Pound 1.6060 1.6161 1.7392 1.7360 Japanese Yen 0.0113 0.0114 0.0121 0.0127 Euro in U.S. 1.1880 1.1875 1.1216 1.1200 Euro in Cdn 1.4719 1.4887 1.5141 1.4656Quotations provided by the Bank of Canada

Contractor killed at Suncor Energy mining site north of Fort McMurray

FORT MCMURRAY, Alta. — An Alberta labour spokesman says a contract worker has died at Suncor Energy’s Millennium mine north of Fort McMurray.Trent Bancarz says a man in his 30s was digging a trench this morning when he was buried.His name has not been releasedThe man was employed by Aecom mining.Bancarz says Suncor (TSX:SU) notified the department this morning.RCMP are investigating alongside occupational health and safety officials.

Equitable Group earnings hit by funding done to address Canadian banks liquidity

TORONTO — Equitable Group Inc. says earnings were up in the third quarter but profit growth was tempered by the need to shore up liquidity through funding facilities from Canada’s major banks.The company says net income came in at $37.9 million or $2.21 per diluted share for the quarter ending Sept. 30, up from $35.2 million or $2.16 per share for the same period last year.Equitable says earnings were, however, reduced by $0.42 per share in the quarter because of actions it took in the second quarter to address liquidity issues.What the new mortgage rules mean for the lending marketShares of alternative mortgage lenders dip as investors digest latest efforts to cool frothy housing marketThe company says those actions included securing a two-year, $2-billion funding facility from Canada’s six largest banks, and insuring and securitizing an $892-million portfolio of existing residential mortgages to protect itself during what it says was a period of funding market volatility.Equitable says deposit principal was $10.5 billion at the end of the quarter, up 14 per cent from a year earlier and up five per cent from the end of June.The company says it is Canada’s ninth largest independent schedule I bank, running branchless operations including its EQ Bank digital banking arm which provides services to more than 43,000 Canadians. read more

Samaranayake new Presidential spokesman

The current spokesman for the President is former Daily News Editor Bandula Jayasekera. Sri Lanka Rupavahini Chairman Mohan Samaranayake has been tipped to be appointed as the new Presidential spokesman, unconfirmed reports said.When contacted Samaranayake said that he had also heard of the move but has not been officially informed.

Rights group to release Sri Lanka report

It said that journalists, the judiciary, human rights activists and opposition politicians are among those who have been targeted in a disturbing pattern of government-sanctioned abuse, often involving the security forces or their proxies. The report documents dozens of cases where government critics have been subjected to verbal and physical harassment, attacks and even killings. Amnesty International will launch a new report next week documenting how the Sri Lankan government has allegedly stepped up its crackdown on dissenting views over the past years through threats, harassment, imprisonment and violent attacks.The document, “Assault on Dissent”, reveals how the government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa is increasingly equating criticism with treason in a bid to tighten its grip on power, Amnesty International said in a media note today. Amnesty International is a leading international human rights organisation which has been pushing for an international investigation in Sri Lanka into alleged human rights abuses. (Colombo Gazette) read more

US for process in Lanka with UN support

He noted the United States’ support for a credible domestic process for justice and reconciliation in Sri Lanka — one that is led and owned by the Sri Lankan people and is conducted in cooperation with the UN and with international support. US Secretary of State John Kerry says the US will support a domestic process led and owned by the Sri Lankan people and conducted in cooperation with the UN and with international support.The US Embassy in Colombo said that Kerry had expressed this view when he met President Maithripala Sirisena in New York. The Secretary commended the bold steps taken by the new Sri Lankan government to restore democratic freedoms at home and to renew its engagements with the United Nations and other key partners abroad. The Secretary and President Sirisena also discussed ways in which the United States can support Sri Lanka in pursuing clean energy initiatives, improving cooperation on climate change efforts in the run-up to the COP 21 meeting in Paris, and working toward open government goals. (Colombo Gazette) read more