Wild Poliovirus International Spread “Extraordinary” After Near-Eradication of Virus Last Year, WHO Says

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The IHR Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization met last week on the “extraordinary” international spread of wild polioviruses in 2014, and voted unanimously on measures to stem the resurgence of endemic and internationally exported polioviruses, which were thought to have been nearly eradicated in 2013.

In the informational session of the meeting, affected States Parties presented information on developments in their nations, including Afghanistan, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Israel, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and the Syrian Arab Republic, after which the Committee called the public health risk to thus-far unaffected States an “extraordinary event” and warned that a coordinated international response was essential.

Wild poliovirus was nearly stopped through the transmission season between January to April, 2012, but eradication of the disease may fail if the current situation continues. During 2013, most wild poliovirus cases were spread internationally, and in 2014–during the low transmission season–the virus has already spread from three of the 10 infected States–from Pakistan to Afghanistan, Syria to Iraq, and Cameroon to Equatorial Guinea. These three States pose the highest risk of further exportations as well.

Polio is one of the world’s most serious vaccine-preventable diseases. Prevention measures focus largely on oral vaccination and routine immunization. The Committee called for the three highest-risk States to vaccinate all residents and visitors prior to international travel. The Committee encouraged the eight non-exporting States to take similar measures.

The high transmission season for wild poliovirus–between May and June–has already started, and unilateral measures called for at by Committee face the challenge posed by compromised immunization services and high re-infection risks in polio-free but conflict-torn States.

The Committee was requested to reassess the situation in three months.

By Cheryl Bretton



First Ever Charge for Female Genital Mutilation in UK After 28 Years of Law – Top Gynecologist Warns Do Not Prosecute

Female Genital Mutilation
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A London doctor charged with female genital mutilation (FGM)–the first ever charge for the 28-year-old crime in a country where 170,000 women live with the scars of the procedure–appeared at court this weekend. But a top London gynecologist is saying the man should not be charged in this landmark case.

The gynecologist, Katrina Erskine, a consultant obstetrician and gynecologist with a special interest in high risk pregnancy and maternal medicine, says this is not a case that should be prosecuted. Although the London Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) announced that there was sufficient evidence to charge Dr. Dhanuson Dharmasena, the doctor charged was not performing an original FGM. Dharmasena only performed stitching to repair tissue after the woman delivered a child. She had undergone FGM when she was much younger.

The gynecologist said she suspected that the DPP, Alison Saunders, was proceeding in the case because of pressure to prosecute someone for FGM due to the large publicity the subject had received. Erskine, who has practiced in an inner-city hospital in London’s East End for 21 years, where substantial immigrant Somali and Eritrean populations reside, said that she has never seen a case of FGM that was performed in England.

Erskine accused the DPP of prioritizing politics over other concerns and said that fellow gyneacologists were also outraged. She warned, “If, as a result of the Director of Public Prosecutions’s intervention, any post-delivery stitching or repair to a woman with FGM is going to be potentially considered as mutilation, then doctors and midwives will understandably hesitate before intervening. In certain situations, that potentially could cost a new mother her life.”

Seven thousand women who have undergone FGM give birth in London every year.

In addition to Dharmasena, a second man, Hasan Mohamed, is charged with encouraging and helping Dharmasena’s proceedure.

Female genital mutilation has been carried out on 140 million women and girls worldwide, according to UN research. 170,000 are in the UK. Of these, only 93 cases were reported in 2013. One went to court: Dharmasena’s.

Female genital mutilation has been illegal in the UK since 1985. Current prosecution of FGM takes place under the 2003 Female Genital Mutilation Act. The maximum sentence for the crime is 14 years incarceration. Dharmasena, 31, who last month was suspended by the General Medical Council, will go to trial Jan. 13, 2015. A plea will be entered June 27, 2014.

By Cheryl Bretton

Sunday Times

Ilford Recorder

Daily Mail

UN Security Council Votes to Lift “Conflict Diamonds” and Arms Bans for Cote d’Ivoire

Cote d'Ivoire
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The 15-member UN Security Council unanimously voted to lift the 2005 resolution banning rough diamond imports from Cote d’Ivoire, as well as partially lift the 2004 arms embargo on the West African nation.

A review of progress made by the Republic of the Ivory Coast showed that the nation had made headway towards the 2003 Kimberley Process Certification Scheme implementation and better governance of the sector, which had aimed to prevent conflict diamonds from entering mainstream markets.

Another review–of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of combatants as well as security sector reform (SSR), national reconciliation and the fight against impunity–also showed progress in Cote d’Ivoire. The UNSC therefore voted to lift the ban on small arms and non-lethal equipment, training, technical assistance and financial assistance in order to enable Ivorian security forces to maintain public order without the Sanctions Committee. Heavy weapons imports still require approval by the Sanctions Committee.

The weapons ban was to last until April, 2015 and prohibited “the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer to the West African nation, from their territories or by their nationals, or using their flag vessels or aircraft, of arms and any related material.”

The UNSC will continue financial and travel restrictions until April, 2015.

By Cheryl Bretton


International Law Prof Blog

Georgia Passes Gay Rights Law for EU Benefits

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In a vote of 115 to 1, the parliament of Georgia outlawed discrimination against homosexuals. The most debated point had been the inclusion of the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” Orthodox Christian groups had opposed what “believers view” as “non-traditional sexual relations” and “a mortal sin,” according to the head of the Georgian church, Patriarch Ilia II. “In its current form, this legislation provides propaganda and legality to this sin,” the Patriarch warned.

The consideration weighing on the parliament leading to this decision was meeting the conditions for an Association Agreement with the EU, which includes relaxed visa procedures with EU states. The requirements of the agreement include law that includes gender identity and sexuality.

“The question is as follows,” said Speaker Davit Usupashvili, “Either we go towards Europe and recognise that we cannot violate human rights, or we reject those views and stay in Russia. So which is it to be – Russia or Europe? This decision is to be made by parliament and the country. We must all make that choice together.”

Of the benefits of EU partnership, Justice Minister Tea Tsulukiani said, “That is a far greater benefit for our country, including for its territorial integrity, than these unfounded worries about whether certain revisions might cause local objections.”

The Georgian constitution already guarantees equality rights, but has been criticized as lacking mechanisms for enforcing the guarantees. Human Rights activists in Georgia have reported that homophobia is “a grave social trend that results in hate crimes and other discriminatory acts”.

One notable revision was the removal from the legislation of a proposed “equality inspector.” Instead, the Public Defender of Georgia will be responsible for oversight. The ombundsman’s office will attempt first to resolve matters through mediation before proceeding to court redress.

The revision has sparked criticism from some. Giorgi Gotsiridze of the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association said, “If we pass the law as it now stands, it will be ineffective because actions that are not criminal offences but which are discriminatory will go unpunished.”

Although it has been noted that proving harm caused by discrimination can be difficult, the law gives victims the right to claim compensation.

By Day Blakely Donaldson

Institute for War and Peace Reporting