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Sri Lankan Legislators join South Asian Lawmakers to prioritise and safeguard Children’s rights: UN Chief

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UN logo. Wikimedia

Colombo, March 6, 2017: Sri Lankan legislators have joined lawmakers from across South Asia to prioritise and safeguard children’s rights, the UN children’s agency Unicef said on Monday.

According to the Unicef, despite economic growth and improvements in realising the rights of children, massive disparities still exist, preventing children from living in dignity, reaching their full potential and making choices about their futures.

Sri Lanka, home to eight million children under 18, has some of the region’s best health indicators, almost universal primary schooling, with nearly 90 per cent of the population having access to safe drinking water, Xinhua news agency reported.

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However, Unicef noted that violence against children, including physical abuse at home, remains a concern. While the rate of extreme poverty is declining (by 16 per cent between 2002 and 2012), child poverty rates remain higher.

“Even though our indicators are really good, we still have issues like child marriage, school dropouts and migration affecting children,” said Sudarshani Fernandopulle, an MP.

“Children remain at the heart of a country’s development and future economic growth. We need to invest more in policy reform and budgetary allocation in order to address the remaining disparities that prevent every child, especially the most vulnerable and marginalised, from reaching their full potential,” she said at a children’s regional meeting.

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Unicef said the meeting was a milestone in bringing together lawmakers from all eight countries in South Asia to prioritise, promote, and safeguard children’s rights.

It was an opportunity to plug in the critical role that parliamentarians can play in tackling key development challenges affecting children within the larger framework of the Sustainable Development Goals, it said. (IANS)

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UN Chief Condemns Excessive Force Against Sudan Protesters

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned a Monday attack by Sudanese security forces

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UN Chief, Sudan Protesters
Sudanese protesters use burning tires to erect a barricade on a street, demanding that the country's Transitional Military Council hand over power to civilians, in Khartoum, Sudan, June 3, 2019. VOA

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has condemned a Monday attack by Sudanese security forces that broke up a protest site in Khartoum and killed or wounded dozens of people.

“He condemns the use of force to disperse the protesters at the sit-in site, and he is alarmed by reports that security forces have opened fire inside medical facilities,” said a spokesman for Guterres at the United Nations in New York. “The Secretary-General reminds [Sudan’s] Transitional Military Council of its responsibility for the safety and security of the citizens of Sudan. He urges all parties to act with utmost restraint.”

Explosions and heavy machine gunfire were heard as security forces stormed a site outside the Defense Ministry where demonstrators had maintained a protest for the past eight weeks, demanding the military hand power over to a civilian authority.

Witnesses say that by mid-afternoon, the area had been cleared.

UN Chief, Sudan Protesters
An injured man is carried on a stretcher during protests in Khartoum, Sudan, June 3, 2019 in this image taken from a video obtained from social media. VOA

The Central Committee of Sudan Doctors, which is close to Sudan’s protest movement, now says the death toll stands at 30 with many more injured.

In remarks from the spokesman, Guterres also called for unimpeded access for first responders at the sit-in site and in hospitals where the wounded are treated, and called on Sudanese authorities to conduct an independent investigation and hold people accountable for the deaths.

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet also condemned the attack and urged the security forces to stop immediately.

“Those exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression must be protected, not targeted or detained,” Bachelet said in a statement. “This is a fundamental tenet of international human rights law.”

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The U.S. embassy in Khartoum tweeted that the attacks on protesters “must stop.”

The British embassy condemned the attack and called it an “outrageous step that will only lead to more polarization and violence.”

Details of the raid

The sit-in began in April as civilians and military officials argued over the makeup of a transitional government, following the military overthrow of Omar al-Bashir in April, after mass protests against his 30-year rule.

With batons in hand, Sudanese forces dressed in police and military uniforms surrounded protesters near the military headquarters and began forcing the demonstrators to leave. Video on several media outlets shows Sudanese forces beating protesters lying face down on the ground.

UN Chief, Sudan Protesters
In this image made from video, Sudanese forces escort civilian in Khartoum, Sudan on June 3, 2019. VOA

Protesters say rapid response forces and paramilitary units surrounded two Khartoum hospitals.

The Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces — a coalition of political parties leading the protest — issued a statement calling on all demonstrators to continue with”the revolution.”Protesters later blocked roads leading into and out of Khartoum.

Protest organizers have suspended further talks with the Transitional Military Council and called for civil disobedience across the country until the military hands over power to civilians.

The organizers also say in the statement that security forces who killed protesters must be brought to justice.

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Media reports quote Transitional Military Council spokesman Shams El din Al Kabashi as saying the forces only targeted what he called “dangerous groups” that infiltrated the protesters in the sit-in area.

Kabashi says he believes that a return to negotiations is the quickest way to resolve the problem. (VOA)