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Press briefing note on Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Myanmar and Hungary

Spokespersons for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva
Date: 5 July 2016
Subject:  (1) Iraq, (2) Saudi Arabia, (3) Kenya,  (4) Myanmar and (5) Hungary

(1) Iraq

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein will issue a press release on Iraq shortly.

(2) Saudi Arabia

The High Commissioner also utterly deplores yesterday’s disgraceful bomb attack next to the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina in Saudi Arabia. This is one of the holiest sites in Islam, and for such an attack to take place there, during Ramadan, can be considered a direct attack on Muslims all across the world. The significance of this attack cannot simply be measured in terms of the four policemen who were reported to have been killed, and the physical damage. It is an attack on the religion itself.

There were reportedly at least two other bomb attacks in Saudi Arabia yesterday, in Qatif in the far east of the country and in Jeddah, and we extend our condolences to all those who were killed and injured in all these terrorist attacks, taking place virtually on a daily basis somewhere in the world.

(3) Kenya

We condemn the killing of Kenyan human rights lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josphat Mwenda, and their taxi driver Joseph Muiruri, on 23 June, in a context of persistent allegations of extrajudicial killings by police forces.
The three men disappeared after Mr Kimani and Mr Mwenda attended court in Mavoko, some 30 km east of Nairobi, in a case involving an officer from the Administration Police. Mr. Mwenda had been shot and injured by the police officer in April 2015, and then charged with fictitious crimes. Willie Kimani, who was working with an NGO, International Justice Mission, was assisting Mr Mwenda with his case. Mr Mwenda had reportedly been receiving intimidation and threats in the run up to the hearing.

The two men and their driver were allegedly briefly detained inside a container in a police compound before they were executed. On 30 June, their bodies, which reportedly showed signs of torture, were found in a river to the north-east of Nairobi.
Kenya’s Attorney General has stated that no effort will be spared to identify those responsible for the killings, and the Inspector General of Police has announced that a thorough investigation will be conducted. Three police officers have been arrested so far. One welcome development in the wake of this terrible crime is the pledge made yesterday by the Attorney General that the Prevention of Torture bill will be presented in Parliament within the next 28 days.

It is imperative to throw full light on what happened and to establish all responsibilities related to these atrocious murders. We also call upon the Kenyan authorities to strengthen efforts towards accountability and take urgent measures to prevent extrajudicial executions and police brutality and other serious violations. These are steps the Kenya authorities have committed to, including in last year Universal Periodic Review, and they are essential if trust is to be restored before the elections take place next year. We also call on the authorities to ensure a safe and enabling environment in which civil society can operate freely and without fear.

According to some NGO sources, as many as 53 people may have been summarily executed by police forces between January and April 2016. The Kenya National Human Rights Commission also documented 25 cases of extrajudicial killings and 81 cases of “enforced disappearances” by police and other security agencies in the context of the counter terrorism operations between 2013 and 2015.

(4) Myanmar

We are alarmed by two major acts of mob violence directed against Myanmar’s Muslim community in the space of just eight days. Last Friday, a mob burned down a mosque in Hpakant Township in Kachin State and a week earlier, on 23 June, another  mob attacked and partially destroyed a mosque and other properties in a village called Thaye Thamain, in Bago Region. 

We are particularly concerned by initial reports that the police were present at the mosque in Hpakant but failed to take action to prevent it being destroyed, and that the authorities in Bago have not carried out any criminal investigation into the incident there.

We call on the Government to investigate both these incidents, as well as the responses by local authorities, in a prompt and thorough manner. These acts of mob violence could fuel a further cycle of hostility in the country, and we urge immediate steps be taken to prevent further incidents of religious intolerance. 

Failure to investigate and prosecute such crimes would send a worrying message that attacks against religious minorities will go unpunished. The Government must send a clear signal that everyone is subject to the rule of law and that incidents against Muslims and other religious minorities must come to an end.
As noted by the High Commissioner in his recent report on the situation of minorities in Myanmar to the Human Rights Council**, every effort must be made to prevent and counter acts of discrimination, incitement to hatred and violence.

**To access the full report, please go to: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session32/Pages/ListReports.aspx

(5) Hungary

We are concerned at the entry into force today, 5 July, of a law enabling the Hungarian police to escort irregular migrants found within eight kilometers of the border with Serbia to transit zones at the border.

We are worried that the wording of the law leaves too much room for interpretation and may result in law enforcement agencies not respecting the human rights of migrants and breaching international law, by forcibly expelling them without any form of legal procedure.

With hundreds of people already waiting in the strip of land between the Serbian passport control and the Hungarian barbed wire fence, we also fear that this measure will only worsen the existing desperate and inhuman conditions at the border.

Addressing new police officers at a ceremony in Budapest, the Deputy National Police Commissioner János Balogh said yesterday that the new law “provides police with a new opportunity to take action” and said that the Hungarian police had similar goals as the country’s football team at Euro 2016, namely “to keep the enemy as far away as possible from our own goal.”

These disturbing comments were made in the wake of a number of reports of pushbacks of migrants by Hungarian police. In the night of 30 May-1June, a Syrian man drowned in the Tisza river, after he was allegedly forced back towards Serbia by police using pepper spray against a group of eight migrants who had just crossed by boat. The police are reported to have also thrown rocks at the group as they tried to swim back to the Serbian river bank. 

We are also deeply concerned at the sentencing by a Hungarian court on 1 July of ten migrants for illegally crossing the border fence, which was erected by the Hungarian authorities along the border with Serbia in September 2015. Nine of the migrants were sentenced to one year in prison, but were released for various reasons, while the tenth migrant received a three-year sentence. Some 2,800 persons have been criminally prosecuted to date under the September 2015 law.


For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org)

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