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South Sudan refugees under heavy protection of Indian peacekeepers

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Photo: http://shethepeople.tv

United Nations: Indian peacekeepers are “taking robust measures to protect South Sudan refugees sheltered in a massive camp where 18 people have been killed and scores injured this week in fighting between ethnic groups — which has come under attack from the South Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), according to a source monitoring the situation from here.

The fighting started Wednesday between young people belonging to the Shilluk and Dinka tribes in the Malakal camp in South Sudan and SPLA members fired into the camp and also entered it attacking civilians, the Security Council said Friday in a press statement.

At that point, the source at the UN told IANS, “the Indian troops went in and even fired with their APCs (armored personnel carriers) and other things to get the situation under control.”

The SPLA, “although they would deny it, fired into the camp from the outside also” and the Indian peacekeepers “took robust measures externally to prevent any SPLA soldiers from harming these people and getting the situation under control,” the source added.

The internal security of the camp is the responsibility of the UN police forces, while the external protection is of the troops. The troops back up the police inside in emergencies.

The source said that SPLA members were able to get inside the camp as civilians “because they are Dinkas they can wear civvies.” It was also possible for them to bring in weapons through the Dinkas who live inside the camp and can go in and out, the source added.

There were no casualties among the peacekeepers, the source said. Out of the 2,273 Indian peacekeepers in the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) about 550 are stationed in Malakal. Rwandan peacekeepers are also based there and operate alongside Indians.

Medecins Sans Frontiers, the Switzerland-headquartered international medical charity, said two of those killed were its staff members.

Amid rising tensions in South Sudan, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to visit it next week, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric announced Friday. He added that Ban condemned the latest round of violence and expressed concern over “the rising inter-communal tensions between the Dinka and Shilluk which precipitated this incident.” (Arul Louis, IANS)

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Concerns Rise Over China’s Stand at United Nations Human Rights Council

China has passed human rights reviews twice before this one, while more than 120 countries Beijing's human rights record during the most recent process.

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The 22nd session of the U.N. Human Rights Council meets in Geneva on Feb. 25, 2013. RFA

Rights activists are increasingly worried that Beijing’s influence operations are having a negative impact on the work of the United Nations Human Rights Council, which concludes its 40th session on Friday.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) China director Sophie Richardson warned in an article this week that China is seeking to undermine the mission of the U.N. Human Rights Council from within.

She also cited HRW research in 2017 which reported threats and harassment of U.N. staff involved in human rights evaluation by Chinese officials.

“As we head towards the final phase of [China’s U.N. human rights review], ask yourself: What other government threatens #humanrights treaty body experts?” Richardson tweeted on Thursday.

“As an [Human Rights Council] member #China is expected to uphold highest standards,” she wrote in another tweet, referencing a report in The New York Times. “Instead it tells people that merely attending an event is a ‘hostile act.'”

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During the recent round, the Chinese government said it accepted most of the 346 human rights recommendations put forward by the council. VOA

According to HRW’s 2017 article based on a 97-page report: “Chinese officials have at times harassed and intimidated U.N. staff, experts on treaty bodies, and independent experts focusing on specific human rights issues.”

The 2014 death in detention of activist Cao Shunli, who was detained on her way to a U.N. human rights event in Geneva, also sent a “chilling” message to Chinese activists who may want to participate in the U.N. human rights process, the article said.

HRW isn’t the only human rights organization worried about Chinese influence at the U.N.

Renee Xia, who heads the Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) network, reported from a side-event of the Human Rights Council conference in Geneva this week that it was “standing room only.”

“Strong show of interest despite #China urging countries not to attend,” Xia tweeted.

“The strong attendance was more remarkable esp. after #China officials went to many countries’ diplomats at the U.N., Geneva, to threaten them with “serious consequences” if they attended the side events,” she wrote in another tweet.

“#Bullying at the UN must stop!” she wrote.

‘So many restrictions’

Wang Dan, a former leader of the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement on Tiananmen Square, is also in Geneva this week.

“To tell you the truth, my feelings during my two days here are that China has huge influence at the U.N.,” Wang told RFA.

“For example, at one side-event, it wasn’t just the Chinese delegation who spoke against [criticisms of Beijing’s rights record], but other countries came to speak in support of China’s position,” he said.

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“Many of the countries participating in the Human Rights Council are actually the ones that are carrying out the most violations of human rights, Pixabay

Wang said tight controls over public speech also make it less likely that the ruling Chinese Communist Party will have to face criticism of human rights violations coming from within its own borders.

“There are a lot of people online in China, but they are under so many restrictions,” he said. “You can’t mention the Tiananmen Massacre. You can’t mention [late Nobel peace laureate and political prisoner] Liu Xiaobo. You can’t say this, you can’t say that.”

“I don’t think that’s how you define freedom … but then the Chinese point to the U.N. charter, which says that all member states must be respected,” he said.

‘Autocratic rule the default’

Veteran New York-based rights activist Liu Qing said the work of the council had become “unrecognizable” to him.

“Many of the countries participating in the Human Rights Council are actually the ones that are carrying out the most violations of human rights,” Liu told RFA.

“The only purpose of these countries in insinuating themselves into the Human Rights Council is to curb the positive role of the Human Rights Council and make autocratic rule the default setting on the international stage,” he said.

Amnesty International blogger Shao Jiang wrote in December 2018 that Beijing is reinterpreting universal human rights as merely the right to survival, freedom to access food, and regards other definitions of human rights as secondary to trade and economic development.

“The Chinese government has appointed government officials as independent experts into the UN’s Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, and the U.N. treaty bodies,” Shao said.

China has passed human rights reviews twice before this one, while more than 120 countries Beijing’s human rights record during the most recent process.

During the recent round, the Chinese government said it accepted most of the 346 human rights recommendations put forward by the council.

Also Read: Myanmar Government Calls Ethnic Armed Groups To Attend Collective Peace Discussions For The First Time

The United Nations now reports annually on government reprisals against human rights defenders participating in U.N. human rights efforts, Richardson wrote in an article in The Hill last December.

“China has topped the list of offenders in every report issued,” she said. (RFA)