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As Ban Hits Road, ICP Asks UN About Uzbek Treatment of Urlaeva, Rohingya

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, June 4 -- As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, embroiled in a scandal of his UN covering up alleged child rapes by French peacekeeping soldiers in the Central African Republic, sets sail on a long trip away from New York, the question arises whether he will raise human rights issues in the countries he visits.

   On June 4, Inner City Press asked Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, transcript here:

Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you about Uzbekistan.  In light of the Secretary-General's trip, and just generally, there's been a pretty high-profile arrest and abuse of a human rights defender, Elena Urlaeva, who is known to document forced labor in cotton fields there.  She was arrested, subject to cavity searches, X-rays.  A number of human rights groups have spoken against it.  And I wonder, one, is the Secretary-General aware of it?  And, two, is this the type of issue…?

Spokesman Dujarric:  We've seen the reports.  The Secretary-General will very much bring up the issue of human rights on his… on every stop in the region.  You know, the human rights record in the region is mixed.  That's evident.  We obviously welcome the engagement of these countries with the UN human rights machinery.  The Secretary-General will tell his… reiterate to his interlocutors the importance of working with that machinery, offering the UN's help in working to implement the recommendations of the Human Rights Council.  I think by the end of 2016, all the countries will have gone through the Universal Periodic Review.  We also have a human rights centre in Dushanbe, which is there to help, as well.  And he will also make the point of the importance of civil society, of a free civil society that can operate, so the human rights issues will be raised.

Inner City Press:  But, on this particularly kind of pretty high-profile case, does he have a view of the arrest and some would say torture of this activist?

Spokesman:  Obviously, we're… we're… we're looking into it but it's clear that civil society groups in every country need to be able to operate freely.

   We'll see how Ban addresses these issues during his travel.

Inner City Press also asked about the Rohingya:

Inner City Press:  Rohingya question?  The Asian Centre for Human Rights put out a report blaming not just the Government of Bangladesh but the UN/UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] for failure to register up to 2,000 Rohingya within the country, which it says makes them much more susceptible to trafficking because they don't have the stature… they haven't been registered by the UN system.  So, I wonder, is there some reason that UNHCR or the UN system to the level of Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar and the people working on it…

Spokesman:  Let me look into that specific report.

   Ten hours later, there had been no response. Watch this site.


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