Tue, May 02, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Journalism is not a crime, top UN rights official says

CONCERNS:The UN is worried about Turkey’s mass arrests, and warns that that terror should not be tackled at the expense of rights in Turkey, Egypt or elsewhere

Staff writer, with AFP and Reuters, GENEVA, Switzerland

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein yesterday speaks to reporters during a news conference at the European headquarters of the UN in Geneva, Switzerland.

Photo: AP

In a wide-ranging news conference yesterday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein voiced concern over developments in Turkey, Egypt, the Philippines, Yemen and several other nations.

It is “highly unlikely” Turkey followed due process in the mass arrests and firings since the failed coup in July last year, Zeid said, before going on to specifically condemning the dismissals on Saturday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government on Saturday dismissed nearly 4,000 public officials, including more than 1,000 people working for the Ministry of Justice.

“With such a large number, it is highly unlikely these suspensions and detentions will have met due process standards,” Zeid said, referring to fired officials and the wider nine-month crackdown.

He also said he was “very concerned about the renewed state of emergency,” which Turkey extended by parliamentary vote on April 18, saying the decision was made amid “a climate of fear in the country.”

“Journalism is not a crime in Turkey, it is an issue the government must pay deep attention to,” he added.

Turning to Egypt, he said that the heavy-handed security measures by the government were fostering the very radicalization it is looking to curb.

Zeid condemned the attacks on two Christian churches last month Islamic State group suicide bombers that killed 45 people, which led the government to declare a three-month state of emergency hours later.

“A state of emergency, the massive numbers of detentions, reports of torture and continued arbitrary arrests — all of this we believe facilitates radicalization in prisons,” Zeid said. “Abetted by the crackdown on civil society through travel bans, freezing orders, anti-protest laws, this is in our opinion is not the way to fight terror.”

“National security yes, must be a priority for every country, but again not at the expense of human rights,” Zeid said.

He also said that he hoped US President Donald Trump would convey to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte the deep sense of alarm about Duterte’s apparent shirking of his duty to prosecute human rights violations, when the two men meet in Washington.

The UN is also continuing to receive signals that the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen could attack the port of Hodeidah, causing humanitarian suffering and loss of life, Zeid said.

“The UN is concerned about the humanitarian repercussions of such an attack in terms of inflaming the humanitarian crisis even further, let alone our concerns about loss of civilian life were there to be a large-scale attack on port,” he said.

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