An aerial view of children and their families standing near temporary shelters at the Khamsa Dagiga site for displaced people in Zelingei Town, Central Darfur, Sudan. © UNICEF/Spalton - Photo: 2024

‘Barbaric’ Sexual Violence In Sudan — Haiti’s Transitional Council in Place —Iran Rapper’s Death Sentence Condemned

By UN News

UNITED NATIONS | 26 April 2024 (IDN) — The international community must take immediate action to end the wave of sexual violence being carried out against women and girls in Sudan, two senior UN officials said on 25 April.

Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten together with Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Joyce Msuya, said that more than a year into the battle for control of the country between rival militaries, the “barbaric acts” being committed “echo the horrors witnessed in Darfur two decades ago”.

They urged Security Council members who met this week to debate Ms. Patten’s latest report on sexual violence to send “an unequivocal message: under international humanitarian law, civilians in Sudan must be protected and must never be subjected to acts of sexual violence, which constitute war crimes.”

The disturbing reports show how women and girls are being disproportionately impacted.

Sudan: Millions at risk

Allegations of rape, forced marriages, sexual slavery, and trafficking of women and girls—especially in Khartoum, Darfur and Kordofan—continue to be recorded with millions of civilians at risk as they flee conflict areas in search of shelter, inside Sudan and in neighbouring countries.

The two top women officials noted that the true scale of the crisis remains unseen, “a result of severe underreporting due to stigma, fear of reprisals, and a lack of confidence in national institutions.”

Without more financial and political support for frontline responders, access to life-saving services will only continue to shrink, they warned.

UN welcomes Haiti’s Transitional Presidential Council

Hopes rose on 25 April of political progress amid the multiple crises engulfing gang-ravaged Haiti, with the formal resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry and the official installation of the Transitional Presidential Council.

Mr. Henry had agreed to step down in March after heavily armed criminal gangs seized the country’s airport and blocked his return. He will be replaced by former Finance Minister Michel Patrick Boisvert, who takes over as interim Prime Minister.

Spokesperson for the Secretary-General Stéphane Dujarric said the UN welcomed the newly-formed Council.

Call for swift international police deployment

“We call on the new authorities and all stakeholders to expedite the full implementation of the transitional governance arrangements,” he said.

The Secretary-General reiterates his call for the swift deployment of the Multinational Security Support mission to Haiti, authorized by the Security Council in October last year, to support the Haitian National Police and return law and order to the streets after months of turmoil which has left millions in need, Mr. Dujarric added.

“The Secretary-General appeals to all Member States to ensure the Multinational Security Support mission receives the financial and logistical support it needs to succeed.”

Iran: Rights experts alarmed by death sentence imposed on rapper Toomaj Salehi

UN Human Rights Council-appointed independent experts demanded the immediate release of Iranian rapper and songwriter Toomaj Salehi on Thursday and urged authorities to reverse his death sentence.

“Criticism of government policy, including through artistic expression is protected under the rights to freedom of expression and the right to take part in cultural life. It must not be criminalised,” the experts said.

“Art must be allowed to criticise, to provoke, to push the boundaries in any society.”

They expressed alarm at his sentencing and alleged ill-treatment “which appears to be related solely to the exercise of his right to freedom of artistic expression and creativity”.

Freedom of expression

“As harsh as Mr. Salehi’s songs are to the government, they are a manifestation of artistic freedom and cultural rights,” they said.

The rapper was initially sentenced to six years in prison for his role in the 2022 Mahsa Amini protests but was released after Iran’s Supreme Court ruled that it had identified flaws in the original sentence.

However, he was detained again on 30 November last year for expressing his opinion on the Iranian government and revealing that he was tortured and placed in solitary confinement for 252 days following his arrest in October 2022.

Toomaj Saleh’s harsh sentencing takes place against a backdrop of severe restriction on artistic freedom and other forms of expression in the country said the experts.

“We have received allegations that it is increasingly common for artists, activists and journalists to be arrested and detained on charges such as ‘publishing false news’ or ‘propaganda against the state’,” the experts said.

They called on Iran to establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

Special Rapporteurs are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and receive no salary for their work. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: An aerial view of children and their families standing near temporary shelters at the Khamsa Dagiga site for displaced people in Zelingei Town, Central Darfur, Sudan. © UNICEF/Spalton

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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