From Afghanistan to Venezuela and Mozambique to Mali acute hunger is projected to rise steeply in many world regions, but especially heavily in Africa, says the World Hunger Hotspots report issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO, released this week. “Over 34 million people are grappling with emergency levels of acute hunger (IPC4)– meaning they are one step away from starvation - across the world,” says FAO.
South Sudan, Burkina Faso, Yemen, and parts of Northern Nigeria are reported as the most precarious but acute hunger is set to soar in over 20 countries, warns the report, though 16m Yemenis and 7m South Sudanese are expected to face high levels of acute food insecurity by June.
Conflict, violence, the Covid pandemic, climate extremes, la Niña-driven weather, Desert Locust outbreaks, and increasingly constrained access in some countries are listed by FAO as the factors driving the crisis.
The risk of famine conditions is driven by already highly vulnerable populations, severe malnutrition, rising displacement, and the deteriorating economic situation, says FAO, reporting that a combination of humanitarian food assistance, cash, and emergency livelihood interventions is urgently necessary.
The International Commission on Missing Persons estimates that the conflict in Syria that started as part of the Arab Spring 10 years ago has disasppeared Syrians and foreigners in Syria at the rate of about 10K per year. Many of the missing were said to be along migratory routes, Mediterranean crossings, and areas where they are preyed upon by criminal enterprises.
JUBA, South Sudan – The South Sudan civil society forum has said that several internally displaced persons and refugees in neighboring countries are fearing to return to their homes because of delay in implementing the revitalized peace deal.
“Lack of plans by the government, looming insecurity and poor services continue to discourage IDPs and refugees from returning home,” said a statement issued by South Sudan Civil Society forum on Monday in Juba.
According to UN agencies, close to one million people are living in IDP camps in the country.
These people were displaced in the aftermath of violence that broke out in December 2013 and renewed violence in July 2016 that displaced thousands in Central, Eastern and Western Equatoria states respectively.
“A comprehensive national plan to facilitate and support repatriation, rehabilitation and resettlement of internally displaced persons and returnees in a voluntary and dignified manner has to be developed,” according to the forum.
It also expressed deep concern over slow implementation of the security arrangement that includes training and unification of the army.
South Sudan is supposed to complete training and unification of 83,000 estimated force to take charge of security during the transitional period before elections are held around 2023.
“The 2018 agreement provided for restoration of permanent and sustainable peace, security and stability in our country envisaged through training, graduation and deployment of national unified forces to take charge of security. Sadly, there is little progress to report on this front,” it said.
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – Amnesty has condemned the alleged human rights abuses by Eritrean troops in Axum, Tigray Region Ethiopia, said to have taken place between November 10 to November 20, 2013.
According to the institute’s 25-page report, hundreds of civilians were massacred by Eritrean forces in retaliation.
According to the report, when the Ethiopian Defense Forces entered the city, heavy artillery shelling was reported in the city, resulting in civilian casualties.
In the early hours of November 19, 2013, TPLF forces and militias attacked the Eritrean army with the help of locals armed with knives, machetes, and sticks, in a battle in the area known as Mai-Koho.
Eritrean soldiers who returned later that afternoon carried out massacres of civilians in military vehicles and tanks, witnesses told Amnesty.
One eyewitness told Amnesty he had seen 400 dead on November 20 alone, while another eyewitness had seen 200 dead at various funerals.
Despite this, the Ethiopian Defense Forces did not attempt to block Eritrean troops other than guarding government buildings.
Amnesty compiled their report by interviewing eyewitnesses, locals, and a number of individuals who know the area, and referring to satellite imagery. The organization presented its findings to State Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia and Ambassador Redwan Hussein, a spokesman for the Emergency Task Force, but has not yet received a response. Amnesty also called on the UN to investigate the killings, kidnappings and robberies committed by Eritrean soldiers in Axum.
ADDIS ABABA – Fifteen Ethiopian peacekeepers have said they do not want to return to Ethiopia from South Sudan, according to the UN.
According to their report, 169 South Sudanese peacekeepers were returning to Addis Ababa, but 15 members of the force said they did not want to return to Ethiopia. The 15 were all from Tigray.
The Ethiopian Defense Forces (EDF) Facebook page, citing the army’s director general of indoctrination, Major General Mohamed Tesema, said the news was that the peacekeepers were members of the 15th Motorized Peacekeeping Battalion. Tesema said the battalion is returning to Ethiopia after completing its stay in South Sudan.
“Those peacekeepers have been trying to create chaos by rolling and shouting at Juba airport saying they will not go to our country,” Tesema stated.
He described the actions of the individuals as “disgraceful” and said they did not represent the members of the armed forces.
The privately-owned Sudan Post reported that the soldiers, who did not want to return to Ethiopia, said they were concerned about the “law enforcement” being carried out by the Tigray regional government and that they were concerned about what would happen to them once they returned. The soldiers were said to have been forced to board the plane.
The troops are currently under the protection of the South Sudanese National Security Service.
Ethiopia was one of the first countries to contribute troops to the UN peacekeeping mission, and currently there are around 8,000 troops serving, representing about 8% of the UN’s peacekeeping force worldwide.
The military overthrew the TPLF leadership in the wake of the Oct. 24, 2013 military offensive between the federal government and the TPLF. In connection with this, several suspected members of the TPLF and members of the armed forces were arrested, and arrest warrants were issued. The exact number of people killed in the conflict is unknown, but it is expected to be in the thousands.
In addition, more than 60,000 people have fled the conflict to Sudan, and millions more are in need of humanitarian assistance, according to humanitarian organizations. Following the announcement of the end of the military operation in Tigray State, an agreement was reached with the UN to provide humanitarian assistance to the region. But the International Committee of the Red Cross warns that the number of people in need is “extremely high.”
The United States, at Saturday’s UN meeting, abstained from voting in support of Israel, which most observers consider a break from America’s traditional support of Israel at the UN table. A vote from America would have vetoed the bill.
The bill condemned Israel for its settlements and construction projects in Palestinian territory, stating that Israel was in this in flagrant violation of international law.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the next day summoned US Ambassador Daniel Shapiro, and the meeting is scheduled for Sunday night.
Israel also summoned ambassadors from China, France, Russia, Angola, Egypt, Japan, Spain, Ukraine and Uruguay to meet.
“Over decades American administrations and Israeli governments have disagreed about settlements, but we agreed the Security Council was not the place to resolve this issue,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu also told CNN he had trustworthy information that President Barack Obama helped push the UN resolution and helped craft it.
The US government responded to this by saying that they didn’t draft it; Egypt and Palestine did.
U.S. government spokespeople are claiming that the move — considered by most observers to be a sudden break from tradition and a “parting shot” by Obama against Israel — was in line with the U.S.’s longstanding position on the matter.
“They would pour boiling hot water on us” — Free Tibet submits torture evidence as China reviewed at UN Director meets Committee Against Torture
Campaign group Free Tibet and its research partner Tibet Watch provided oral evidence to the United Nations’ Committee Against Torture Monday, following up their written submission detailing the continued use of torture across Tibet. The groups’ report “Torture in Tibet” contains graphic testimonies from torture survivors, records deaths in custody as a result of torture and details how Tibetan prisoners continue to face degradation, abuse and mental and physical torture.
The submission and presentation form part of the Committee Against Torture’s (CAT) review of China’s compliance with the International Convention Against Torture which the PRC ratified in 1988. China was last reviewed by the committee in 2008, when it found torture across China and Tibet to be “widespread” and “routine” and expressed “great concern” about reported torture and state violence in Tibet.
“Torture in Tibet” (co-authored with Tibetan political prisoner association Gu Chu Sum) records the testimony of Gonpo Thinley, jailed following the 2008 Uprising in Tibet:
“They tortured us using electric batons, metallic water pipes and handcuffs. If our answers didn’t satisfy the interrogator, they would pour boiling hot water on us. They also tied both hands up on the ceiling and beat us on our feet with batons. We were hanging above the ground. Sometimes they also used electric batons in our mouth, which caused us to lose consciousness. During cold days or winter, we were put in cold water.”
A monk who wished to remain anonymous reported:
“They made us stand up in the sun for hours, even for the whole day following every interrogation, because we didn’t say anything. One of my friends was tied to the flagpole in the centre of the government campus for two days and two nights without food and water. They shoved me down over pieces of broken glass spread on the ground and beat me a lot with batons after I’d refused to confess. They said we were like animals because we said nothing in between beatings.”
In February, the three Tibet organisations submitted an initial joint report to CAT, providing case studies of tortured prisoners and those at risk of torture and detailing breaches of the Convention’s requirements. The committee subsequently raised these issues and cases with China as part of the preliminaries to the review. China’s delegation will be questioned by the committee on Tuesday and CAT’s final report will be issued early in 2016.
Free Tibet and Tibet Watch director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:
“In their responses so far, China would have us believe that there is no torture in Tibet and our evidence is false. Today we will be urging the Committee Against Torture to press for answers on the questions China would rather avoid. If the Committee’s past performance is anything to go by then tomorrow we’ll see China squirm under international scrutiny and be asked to account for the Tibetans who have been convicted on the basis of confessions extracted by supposedly illegal torture and those who have left Chinese prisons either dead or permanently injured by years of torture and abuse.”
Dong-Hyuk Shin, the only North Korean prison camp escapee, revealed that the inaccurate details in his autobiography “Escape from Camp 14” were neither lies nor confusion about his memories following his traumatic experiences. He just wanted to keep some painful experiences to himself.
“First of all, let me tell about the controversial issues surrounding my book, as some people are still regarding me as a liar. For what and how would I make up those horrible memories? I just wanted to hide a part of my life in the book. Isn’t that a choice I am free to make?” Shin said.
According to the book, Shin underwent torture in North Korea’s most notorious political prison camp, No.14, at the age of 13. He later corrected this claim, however, to say that it was actually in Camp 18, known to be less controlled, when he was 20 years old, after moving out of Camp 14 at age six. Shin was transferred back to Camp 14, again, so he escaped from No. 14 in the end.
He said that he also had to correct the inaccurate report about his confession from United States media. The author of his book, Blaine Harden added in a new forward of the e-book that, “Trauma experts see nothing unusual in this.”
Shin, however, strongly denied the loss of memories, as Harden explained. “I didn’t forget any of the memories of my life. In reality, I couldn’t forget them even if I tried. Every time I tried to erase those terrifying moments, they remained in my head more clearly,” he said.
The prison camp survivor has undergone a tough time since the end of last year, when he arrived in South Korea. Last October, North Korean authorities produced a video called “Lie and Truth” to attack Shin, who had given evidence of North Korea’s human rights violations in front of the UN Commission of Inquiry. In the video, Shin’s father — whom he believed to be dead — contradicted his story.
“I found out that my father was still alive when I watched the video. I believed that he died in the prison camp where he was transferred. When I saw him in such a ridiculous video for the first time, I wasn’t happy at all, but I felt despair. I thought that he would’ve rather died than lived, because I can imagine how much he suffered and is still suffering tortures in the country because of me.”
“If I knew that my story would have gained this much fame at that time, I would’ve disclosed every single detail to the writer.”
The video and the presence of his father ultimately made him reveal what he did not explain in the book. Amid condemnation from many people, he could not stand the criticism of other North Korean defectors.
“I didn’t care about the South Korean media that only focused on the numbers, such as Camp 14 and 18 and my age, while ignoring the scars of prison camp torture on my body. But I was very sad and even enraged because of other defectors who had suffered in North Korea like me,” he continued.
“Some of them denounced me by showing the video produced by North Korean government. I felt miserable, as they didn’t know my true intention, which was to save the dying. I think that they might be jealous of my fame and money. But to be honest, I didn’t earn any money while working for human rights. And the fame had nothing to do with my life, since many North Koreans are still being killed. If I knew that my story would have gained this much fame at that time, I would’ve disclosed every single detail to the writer.”
He alluded to discontinuity in the campaign on his Facebook page this January, but a month later he restarted it.
The prison camp survivor has been involved in North Korean human right activity since 2007. But recently he has felt that everything that he has done was in vain, as nothing has changed yet compared to eight years ago.
“I started this campaign desperately to save tens of thousands of maltreated North Korean residents, because I was also one of them. I didn’t have time, as people were dying every second.”
He was particularly skeptical about the UN’s inquiry into the human rights situation in North Korea, launched in 2013.
“For what did the United Nations establish the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in North Korea? What did they do for North Korean residents? It took more than one year for the UN General Assembly’s Human Rights Committee to adopt the resolution. What is next, then?
“I gave all evidence to them in order to save my family and friends — not to lay flowers on their graves. I don’t think that the officials of the UN would understand how serious the real situation in North Korea is, because most of them have not lived that kind of a desperate life.”
The 33-year-old activist begged people to see the invisible reality: “When I told my story to the UN, at first they asked me whether I could prove it,” he said.
“Six million Jews died in the Holocaust over the course of about three years. Who imagined that many people were killed in that short a time? It is exactly same as 70 years ago. We can’t see what is happening in North Korea, but the fact is that people are being publicly executed at this very moment.”
“I felt miserable, as they didn’t know my true intention, which was to save the dying.”
Despite of his sense of futility over his human rights campaign, he said that he will never give it up.
Currently, Shin is planning two projects for the near future. “I’m thinking to publish a magazine about ordinary South Koreans’ lives and to send them into North Korea through the Chinese border with North Korea,” he said.
Similarly, South Korea’s activist groups, led by North Korean defectors, have sent anti-North propaganda leaflets, attached to large balloons, from near the border for several years. This activity, however, escalated tensions between the two Koreas, and North Korean authorities even threatened South Korea with military action.
“North Korea’s sensitive reaction indicates that these flyers are quite influential in society. I chose to produce a magazine to describe South Korea more specifically. I would like to feature photos of couples holding hands, drinking coffee in the cafe, and walking freely in central Seoul. And I wish North Koreans could realize that they also have a right to live like that.”
“I found out that my father was still alive when I watched the video. I believed that he died in the prison camp where he was transferred.”
He said that the second project is a bit more personal. “I’m aiming to make a video that rebuts every part of the video ‘Lie and Truth,’ before a conference at the United Nations in Geneva this September,” he said.
Through the video, he is hoping to send two messages to the North Korean government. “My ultimate goal is to enter North Korea with a delegation to the UN, and I want to visit Camp 14 where I was born and lived. If I can do that, no one will dispute my life, and finally I can prove the human rights violations,” he said.
The other message seems to be more important for In-Gun Shin — that was the original name of human rights activist Dong-Hyuk Shin.
“I’ll request the authorities let me meet my father either in North Korea or in a third country before he dies. And firstly, I’ll ask him why I was born in the prison camp. I then will say ‘I love you’ to my father for the first and last time.”
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean defector Dong-Hyuk Shin has revealed photos of scars on his body, which he says were suffered in a prison camp in the hermit kingdom. Shin published the photos to his Facebook page last week after admitting to several inaccurate accounts in his autobiography in January.
Shin is famous for being the only survivor to have escaped from a North Korean political prison camp.
Between Feb.27 and Mar. 3, he posted photos to his Facebook page of scars and other marks on his ankles, back, left hand and fingers, which he says he received during his time in the camp.
He wrote in the first post that he showed these wounds because he decided not to be afraid of fighting against North Korea any longer. He wrote that the scars on his ankles were received due to being handcuffed and hung upside down.
The following day, he continued to post photos, displaying his back, also burned from during torture. He added that, “I feel embarrassed to show such a photo and it’s shameful. But I must reveal the evil of the dictator and his regime.” Shin’s reference to North Korea’s leader as “the evil of the dictator” was notable, as such an utterance is an unthinkable remark for ordinary citizens of the secretive state.
In the last post, he concluded that, “If I don’t share these photographs, I have no other way to explain how horrible and vicious the N. Korean regime is!” This message was accompanied by photos of his left hand and little finger, still bearing the aftereffects of mistreatment by prison guards.
The photos could support Shin’s testimony about the violation of human rights in North Korea, regardless of the accuracy about “which prison camp” he was tortured in.
Shin acknowledged his inaccurate details in his autobiography, “Escape from Camp 14,” in January. According to the book, he underwent torture in the most notorious political prison camp, no. 14, at the age of 13. He however later corrected this to say that it was in Camp 18, known to be less controlled, when he was 20 years old, after moving out of Camp 14 at age six.
The writer of the book and former Washington Post journalist Blaine Harden told the Washington Post that “he is still saying that all of this [torture] happened at different times and places.” He added that Shin’s confusion about experiences is totally understandable, as he has suffered from trauma for a long time.
Despite the controversy, Harden will not fix the story, because, he said, “Even the new disclosures in the revised forward may not reveal the whole truth.”
Shin made a public apology about the errors in his accounts on his Facebook page on Jan. 18. He also alluded to discontinuity in North Korea’s human right campaign, writing that, “These will be my final words and this will likely be my first post.”
He restarted activity on his social media page last February, and indicated his will was to keep it up until the day when the regime would be overthrown, amid continuous refutation of him from North Korean authorities.
North Korea has been strongly denying Shin’s story and the existence of Camp 14. Its propaganda television channel Urimizokkiri produced a video, “Lie and Truth,” at the end of October 2014, and showed interviews of his father and relatives who still remain in the country, in order to contradict Shin.
“We never lived in a so-called ‘political prison camp’,” his father said in the video. “You [Dong-Hyuk Shin] will regret forever if you don’t come back to your country.”
The video described Shin as a criminal who fled to South Korea to avoid punishment for his crime. Moreover it strongly blamed him for taking the initiative in fabricating the human rights situation in North Korea.
Who is Dong-Hyuk Shin?
His real name was In Gun Shin. He was born inside Camp 14. He made his escape from the prison camp in 2005. He arrived South Korea via China in August 2006 with the aid of a South Korean journalist. Later, he changed his first name to Dong-Hyuk, named after the journalist.
In 2013, he gave evidence of North Korea’s human rights violations, based on his memoir in the prison camp, in front of the UN Commission of Inquiry. He became a key witness who fostered calls for the North Korean government to be charged with crimes against humanity.