More wildlife conservation needed, United Nations say


This video is called Science Matters: The Genetics of Wildlife Conservation.

From the United Nations Environment Programme:

Global Protection Proposed for Sharks, Rays, Sawfish, Polar Bears and Lions

Fri, Jun 13, 2014

Fate of iconic species lies in the balance as key wildlife conservation conference countdown commences

Bonn, Germany, 13 June 2014 – Some of the world’s most endangered species, many of them migratory, are facing unprecedented threats from climate change and habitat destruction to overexploitation and pollution. This has led to a number of new listing proposals for consideration at the Convention on Migratory Species Convention of the Parties, a key international wildlife conference scheduled to take place 4-9 November 2014 in Quito, Ecuador.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) administered Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (also known as CMS or the “Bonn Convention”) is the only global convention protecting species that move across international boundaries. Every three years it holds an international meeting of all its members – the CMS Convention of the Parties (COP) – to agree on internationally coordinated conservation measures for the world’s migratory species and to decide which species should be protected under its two Appendices.

The deadline for listing proposals for CMS COP11 was 6 June and a total of 32 species have been proposed for listing into Appendix I, which requires strict protection, and Appendix II, which requires coordinated management by the countries in which the species migrate.

Among the listing proposals received from countries for CMS COP11 are a large number of shark and ray species including two types of Hammerhead shark, the Silky shark, three species of thresher sharks, the Reef Manta Ray along with nine Mobula Ray species. In addition, five species of sawfishes, some of which are critically endangered, have been proposed for listing.

“One of the clear messages indicated by the listing proposals is that CMS Parties deem the plight of sharks to be so serious that they proposed over twenty species of sharks and rays for listing. It might also be seen as a vote of confidence in CMS as a forum in which to advance the global conservation of sharks, but also for an increasing number of other threatened migratory species of wild animals”, said Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary of CMS.

Other species put forward by individual CMS Parties for consideration by CMS COP11 include the Polar Bear, which is under major threat from climate change, and the African Lion, which has seen a 30 per cent decrease in population over the last two decades as a result of habitat loss and other man-made threats. Also proposed is the European Eel, which is threatened by overfishing and dams.

Other issues that will be discussed at CMS COP11 in Quito include the illegal hunting of elephants, which are being driven to the brink of extinction with about a hundred elephants being poached every day. This is also a topic that will be high on the agenda of the first ever United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) later this month, and which has also been the subject of a number of major Heads of State summits recently.

Other issues affecting migratory species that will be discussed at CMS COP11 in November include climate change, marine debris, the effects of renewable energy installations on migratory species and illegal bird trapping.

The Chair of the CMS Standing Committee, Professor Alfred Oteng-Yeboah of Ghana, said: “The CMS COP comes in the middle of a busy period in the international environmental calendar. The Convention on Biological Diversity is holding its COP the month before in Korea and the IUCN World Parks Congress takes place in Sydney shortly afterwards. It will be the first time in the 35-year existence of CMS that the COP has taken place in the Americas. We are expecting the Conference to attract leading decision-makers from a wide range of governments, international organizations and civil society”.

Species covered by CMS are extremely diverse, ranging from the Blue Whale and the African Elephant to gazelles, sea turtles, sharks, a variety of birds from albatrosses, birds of prey, waterbirds and songbirds, to the Monarch Butterfly.

By signing the Convention, the 120 Parties to CMS recognize that these wild animals in their innumerable forms are an irreplaceable part of the Earth’s natural system which must be conserved for the good of mankind.

The details of the agenda of the forthcoming CMS COP11 – which is being held under the theme, “Time for Action” – are beginning to emerge. The full list of species proposed for inclusion into the CMS Appendices to be decided by governments includes three terrestrial mammals, two marine mammals, five birds and 22 fish. All proposals submitted by individual CMS Parties can be found on the CMS website at: http://www.cms.int

Notes for Editors

Key CMS COP11 Listing Proposals:

The African Lion, whose numbers have declined by 30 per cent in the last two decades, has been proposed for inclusion on Appendix II. Only about 40,000 animals remain from an estimated 100,000 in 1900 in no more than 25 per cent of their historical range. Only one isolated population of the Asiatic Lion, which has been proposed for inclusion on Appendix I, still exists in India (Gujarat State) with about 175 adult animals.

The Polar Bear, an apex predator that spends much of each year on the sea ice hunting, covers distances of up to 1,000 kilometres. It is now proposed for listing on Appendix II. A global perspective, including the better understanding of the impacts of climate change on Polar Bears, could be added to the conservation policies that countries in the region have worked on for decades.

Two species of Hammerhead shark – the Great and the Scalloped – have been proposed for inclusion on Appendix II. Noted for their distinctively shaped heads from which they derive their name, Hammerhead Sharks have undergone dramatic declines in recent years – as much as 99 per cent for some populations. Other shark species proposed for inclusion in Appendix II are the Silky shark, and three species of thresher shark.

The Reef Manta Ray along with nine Mobula or Eagle ray species is proposed for listing in both Appendices. In several regions, populations of the Reef Manta Ray have declined up to as much as 80 per cent over the last three generations, or about 75 years. The main threats are targeted and incidental fishing. Manta ray products have a high value in international trade markets.

Five species of sawfishes, some of which are critically endangered, have been proposed for listing on Appendix I and II. The listing proposals coincided with the launch of a global strategy for the conservation of sawfishes by the Shark Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at the Sharks International Conference in Durban, South Africa last week. This proposal brings the total number of shark and ray species submitted to 21.

The European Eel, which has unique migration patterns spanning a geographic range from European rivers to the Sargasso Sea in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, is threatened by overfishing and dams being obstacles to migration is already subject to protection measures under European Union Law.

The Great Bustard, one of the largest flying birds of the world, has been proposed for Appendix I. It is already listed in both Appendices. The proposal to list the global population on Appendix I removes the existing geographical restriction to the Middle European population.

CMS – the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals is an environmental treaty under the aegis of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) which provides a global platform for the conservation and sustainable use of migratory animals and their habitats. CMS brings together the States through which migratory animals pass to agree on internationally coordinated conservation measures for a wide range of endangered migratory animals worldwide. CMS is a growing convention with special importance due to its expertise in the field of migratory species. At present, there are 120 Parties to the Convention. Further information: http://www.cms.int

COP – the Conference of the Parties is the main decision-making body of the Convention, which meets every three years to adopt the budget, Strategic Plan and policy decisions including amendments to the Convention’s two Appendices. COP11 is taking place in Quito, Ecuador, at the invitation of the Government of Ecuador in November – the first time the Parties will have met in the Americas. More details on the COP11 agenda will be posted on the CMS website as they become available.

Professor Alfred Oteng-Yeboah of the Department of Botany at the University of Ghana is the current Chair of the CMS Standing Committee; his term comes to an end at the end of COP11. He also serves as the COP-appointed Scientific Councilor for African Fauna and is also a member of the Bureau of the recently established Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

IUCN Global Sawfish Strategy – The Shark Specialist Group (SSG) of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has released a global strategy to prevent extinction and promote recovery of sawfishes, which have been devastated worldwide by overfishing and habitat loss.

For further information: http://www.dulvy.com/global-sawfish-conservation-strategy.html

For more information please contact:

Florian Keil, Information Officer and Coordinator of the Common Information Management, Communication and Outreach Team of the UNEP/CMS and UNEP/AEWA Secretariats, tel: +49 228 815 2451, mail: florian.keil@unep.org

Veronika Lenarz, UNEP/CMS Secretariat, Public Information & Media, tel: +49 228 815 2409, mail: vlenarz@cms.int

United Nations criticize Vatican about child abuse


This video says about itself:

The Vatican answers to the UN Committee Against TortureCCR and SNAP report back

6 May 2014

Greetings from Geneva where, this Monday and Tuesday, the United Nations Committee Against Torture will question the Vatican about its record on child sexual violence.

This is the second time this year the Vatican has been called by an international body to account for its handling of the crisis of sexual violence throughout the Catholic Church. CCR will be there again with our clients, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), to attend the proceedings and report back to survivors, advocates, and supporters via live stream. Tune in to our report-back on Tuesday, May 6, at 8:30 pm CET (2:30 pm EST).

You can follow the global conversation about this historic hearing on Twitter using the hashtag #VaticanAccountability and ask questions before or during the report-back by tweeting to the hashtag or emailing your questions to askCCR@ccrjustice.org. We will answer as many as possible during the live stream.

Throughout the world, children and vulnerable adults have been and continue to be subjected to widespread and systemic rape and sexual violence by priests and others associated with the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican’s policies and practices enable this violence. The Committee Against Torture has been clear that rape and sexual violence constitute forms of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. In April, SNAP and CCR submitted reports to the Committee, detailing how the Vatican has violated the core principles of the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, which it ratified in 2002.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

UN Committee Against Torture criticises Vatican handling of sex abuse

Experts reject argument that Vatican only exercises control over city state and is not accountable for priests’ actions worldwide

Lizzy Davies in Rome

Friday 23 May 2014 15.43 BST

The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) has criticised the Vatican‘s handling of the clerical sex abuse scandal, urging the Catholic church to do more to punish perpetrators, help victims and place “meaningful sanctions” on clerics who fail to deal properly with credible allegations.

In observations published on Friday following a two-day hearing this month, the panel’s 10 experts rejected the Holy See’s argument that it only exercises control over the tiny Vatican City State and cannot be held accountable for the actions of Catholic priests and bishops throughout the world.

They called on the Holy See to “take effective measures” to monitor individuals under its “effective control” and to “stop and sanction” conduct that would constitute “credible allegations of violations of the [UN] Convention [against Torture]“.

Before the report had even been released, the Vatican issued a statement declaring that it had not been found to be “in violation” of the convention.

But advocates of abuse victims rejected this outright, labelling the report “a historic document” that they said recognised clerical sexual abuse as a form of torture and other cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment.

“They’re clearly wrong,” said Pam Spees of the US-based Center for Constitutional Rights, regarding the Vatican’s assertion. “This is an important recognition of the gravity of these offences that have been minimised by the church, places responsibility where it belongs – with the hierarchy in the church, not the victims – and could help open new avenues for redress.”

Felice D Gaer, the CAT’s American vice-chair, told the Guardian: “Legal scholars will tell you that when we write about a concern and make a recommendation we are identifying something that is not in conformity with the requirements of the convention. We don’t use the word ‘violation'; others do. But it’s quite clear it’s not in conformity with the requirements of the convention.”

The report was the first issued by the CAT into the Holy See, and comes after another UN panel – the Committee on the Rights of the Child – issued a scathing rebuke to the Vatican in February, calling it out not only on its handling of child sex abuse cases but also on its stances on abortion and homosexuality.

Those findings prompted an angry response from the Vatican, which accused the panel of ideologically motivated interference in church teachings.

The CAT report, while critical of the church’s sex abuse record, praises it for the steps taken, and, crucially, leaves out any mention of reproductive rights, which some campaigners had urged the panel to consider.

John L Allen, long-term Vatican observer and correspondent for the Boston Globe, said the difference between the two reports indicated the CAT had not wanted its criticisms to be vulnerable to similar attacks.

“It’s pretty clear that, the last time around, the Vatican and its allies used the fact that there was a lot of language in that report that wasn’t about sex abuse – it was about abortion, homosexuality and so on, culture wars – to suggest that it was ideologically driven. They also complained that it had not acknowledged any positive steps the church had taken,” he said.

“They styled the whole thing as a sort of political exercise – you know, axe-grinding and so on. It would seem clear to me that the Committee Against Torture did not want its findings to be dismissed in the same way.”

In its report, the CAT panel noted progress made by the church on the clerical sex abuse scandal, for example welcoming Pope Francis’s establishment of a commission for the protection of minors, and his statement in April that the church needed to be “even stronger” in its tackling of the problem.

The UN experts also welcomed the Vatican’s publication for the first time this month of comprehensive statistics on how many Catholic priests had been disciplined following abuse allegations. But they added that the Holy See had not provided data regarding how many abuse allegations had been reported to the civil law enforcement authorities in the relevant countries.

The CAT said it was “concerned” by reports that some church officials “resist the principle of mandatory reporting of [abuse] allegations to civil authorities”, urging the church to prevent “credibly accused” abusers being simply transferred to other parishes and dioceses “for the purposes of avoiding proper investigation and punishment of their crimes.”

Any church official who failed to handle credible allegations “with due diligence” should be punished, it added.

Citing the case of Polish archbishop Josef Wesolowski, a former papal envoy to the Dominican Republic accused of sex abuse, it said the Holy See should “if warranted … ensure such persons are criminally prosecuted or extradited for prosecution by the civil authorities” of the relevant country.

It also said it was “deeply concerned” by reports of victims being unable to obtain adequate redress or compensation for their suffering and asked the Vatican to set up an independent complaints mechanism.

In its statement, the Vatican said: “The Holy See condemns sex abuse as a serious crime and a grave violation of human dignity.” It noted the criticisms within the report and said it would “give serious consideration” to its recommendations.

UN Committee Addresses Clergy Rape and Sexual Violence as Torture. Despite Objections and Early Pressure from Vatican Officials, Committee Takes on Church Policies and Practices That Enable Widespread Sexual Violence by Clergy: here.

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UN Secretary-General Hammarskjöld murdered for anti-colonialism?


Dag Hammarskjöld

On 18 September 1961, Dag Hammarskjöld, Swedish Secretary-General of the United Nations, died in what was then the British colony Northern Rhodesia (now: Zambia). His plane crashed, killing all people on board either immediately, or a few hours, or a few days later.

An accident? Murder? Views on this differ sharply. Wikipedia notes that official investigations and search and rescue in Northern Rhodesia after the plane crashed were iffy.

Who might have had a motive for killing the United Nations Secretary-General; and, if so, what motive? Dag Hammarskjöld at the time of his death was trying to find a solution for the war in Congo. In 1960, Congo became officially independent from Belgium. However, Belgian big business, establishment politicians and “intelligence” services wanted to basically carry on ruling Congo, now from behind the scenes: from colonialism to neo-colonialism. The democratically elected prime minister of Congo, Patrice Lumumba, opposed that. This led to war in Congo. In 1961, Lumumba was murdered; with complicity of the Belgian secret service and the CIA, later research says.

After the news of Hammarskjöld’s death, a press release issued by the Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo stated that, “… in order to pay a tribute to this great man, now vanished from the scene, and to his colleagues, all of whom have fallen victim to the shameless intrigues of the great financial Powers of the West… the Government has decided to proclaim Tuesday, 19 September 1961, a day of national mourning.”

So, the government of Congo suspected murder by Western spying … sorry, I am supposed to use euphemisms … intelligence services.

Wikipedia says:

His [Hammarskjöld's] efforts towards the decolonisation of Africa were considered insufficient by the Soviet Union …

However, hardline pro-colonialists in Belgium, Britain and other NATO countries rather thought Hammarskjöld did too much for decolonisation.

United States President John F. Kennedy called Hammarskjöld “the greatest statesman of our century”. Not everyone in the United States government may have agreed with that view.

On 19 August 1998, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), stated that recently uncovered letters had implicated the British MI5, the American CIA, and then South African intelligence services in the crash of Hammarskjöld’s plane.

From The Local in Sweden:

NSA may hold key to Dag Hammarskjöld mystery

Published: 9 Sep 2013 15:42 CET

Investigators into Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjöld’s mysterious death have appealed to the US National Security Agency (NSA) for intercepted radio communications from the Swede’s fatal plane crash in Zambia, 1961.

The then Secretary General of the United Nations, Dag Hammarskjöld, died during the night of September 17th

Wikipedia says September 18th

1961 in a plane crash in what is now Zambia, where he was headed to mediate in the ongoing conflict in neighbouring The Congo.

The diplomat’s death has been the subject of numerous rumours and conspiracy theories over the past five decades centred around whether the crash was an accident, or if Hammarskjöld was killed.

Evidence available has left investigators puzzled, with pilot error deemed unlikely after witnesses claimed to have seen the plane going down on fire.

Investigators who probed the case urged the United Nations on Monday to launch a new investigation into the crash, stating that the possibility that the plane was attacked from above, or that it was forced down due to threats, should be “taken seriously, despite everything”.

The team of investigators, which was led by four senior lawyers including diplomat Hans Corell, appealed to the Unites States to declassify documents from the National Security Agency (NSA) including radio communications and intercepts of war planes in the area at the time.

The commission added that it was a “near certainty” that all air traffic information around the airport was “followed and recorded by the NSA and possibly even the CIA”. Access to such files has been denied by the NSA due to the “top secret” classification, something the commission wants to be lifted to further the investigation.

A recent book by the author Susan Williams entitled Who Killed Hammarskjöld? also argued that the plane was brought down, and prompted the diplomat’s nephew Knut Hammarskjöld to call for the new inquiry.

Newly released evidence on the death of UN chief and renowned Swedish statesman Dag Hammarskjöld, including previously unseen pictures of his corpse, has caused the author of an official inquiry to question his own claims that the death was an accident: here.

Stop anti-Snowden witch-hunt, United Nations say


This video is called Glenn Greenwald Explains Why Edward Snowden Is Meeting With Human Rights Authorities.

From the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights:

Mass surveillance: Pillay urges respect for right to privacy and protection of individuals revealing human rights violations

GENEVA (12 July 2013) – The situation of Edward Snowden and alleged large-scale violations of the right of privacy by surveillance programmes raise a number of important international human rights issues which need to be addressed, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said on Friday.

“While concerns about national security and criminal activity may justify the exceptional and narrowly-tailored use of surveillance programmes, surveillance without adequate safeguards to protect the right to privacy actually risk impacting negatively on the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Pillay said.

“Both Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights and Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights state that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with one’s privacy, family, home or correspondence, and that everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks,” said the High Commissioner.

“People need to be confident that their private communications are not being unduly scrutinised by the State,” the High Commissioner noted.

“The right to privacy, the right to access to information and freedom of expression are closely linked. The public has the democratic right to take part in the public affairs and this right cannot be effectively exercised by solely relying on authorized information,” Pillay said.

Snowden’s case has shown the need to protect persons disclosing information on matters that have implications for human rights, as well as the importance of ensuring respect for the right to privacy,” Pillay said.

“National legal systems must ensure that there are adequate avenues for individuals disclosing violations of human rights to express their concern without fear of reprisals,” she added.

As stated by the former UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin, “reliable factual information about serious human rights violations by an intelligence agency is most likely to come from within the agency itself. In these cases, the public interest in disclosure outweighs the public interest in non-disclosure. Such whistleblowers should firstly be protected from legal reprisals and disciplinary action when disclosing unauthorised information.”

The UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms* contains important provisions for the protection of the right to defend human rights. Those who reveal information that they reasonably believe to indicate the commission of human rights violations are entitled to such protection.

“Without prejudging the validity of any asylum claim by Snowden, I appeal to all States to respect the internationally guaranteed right to seek asylum, in accordance with Article 14 of the Universal Declaration and Article 1 of the UN Convention relating to the status of Refugees, and to make any such determination in accordance with their international legal obligations,” Pillay said.

ENDS

* The Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms can be found here: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Defenders/Declaration/declaration.pdf

See also here.

Have you seen the #NSA‘s top-secret #surveillance data mining PowerPoint presentation that #Snowden leaked? Here.

Germany should honour its debt and offer NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden asylum. World View: When such figures as Albert Einstein fled the Nazis, the US provided a haven. Now it’s time for Berlin to offer asylum to the persecuted: here.

France: Two French human rights groups filed a legal complaint on Thursday targeting the US National Security Agency, the FBI and seven technology companies they said may have helped the US snoop on French citizens’ emails and phonecalls: here.

US NSA Spied on Venezuela When President Chavez Died, Documents Reveal: here.

Lon Snowden, father of Edward Snowden, has written an open letter to President Barack Obama denouncing the NSA surveillance programs exposed by his son and the Obama administration’s international witch-hunt in response to the disclosures: here.

McCain: Expand NATO, Missile Deployments To Punish Russia: here.