UN Details Use of Palestinian Children as Human Shields by Israel
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has released a report detailing the mistreatment of Palestinian children by Israeli forces, including the torture and use of children as human shields. “Palestinian children arrested by (Israeli) military and police are systematically subject to degrading treatment, and often to acts of torture, are interrogated in Hebrew, a language they did not understand, and sign confessions in Hebrew in order to be released”, said the report. Most are arrested for throwing stones, an offense which can carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, and the arrests are said to be arbitrary. On their use as human shields, the report detailed that they are sent into potentially dangerous buildings before Israeli troops and are made to stand in front of military vehicles to deter further stone-throwing. They are also routinely denied registration of their birth and access to healthcare, education and clean water. Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, speaking about the report, said that “if someone simply wants to magnify their political bias and political bashing of Israel not based on a new report, on work on the ground, but simply recycling old stuff, there is no importance in that”.
Human Trafficking Worsening in Greece During Financial Crisis
A US State Department report on human trafficking has highlighted Greece as a transit point for women and children subjected to sex trafficking, as well as a hotspot for forced labour. The report, published on World Refugee Day, details how Nigerian women are brought through the Aegean islands and then encouraged to file for asylum as Somali citizens. They are then prostituted in Athens and other major Greek cities such as Thessaloniki and are threatened into agreeing to the scheme by the traffickers. Others are then transported on to Italy and other European Union countries. On forced labour, the report says that victims are commonly “subjected to debt bondage in agriculture and construction. Hundreds of children, mainly Roma from Albania and Romania, are subjected to forced labour in Greece and made to sell goods on the street, beg, or commit petty theft”. It also highlights that the financial crisis stopped government funding for anti-trafficking NGOs, with services to victims now inconsistent and shelters struggling to remain open.
Violence Against Women Is ‘Epidemic’, Says WHO
A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) published on Thursday says that one in three women worldwide have suffered physical or sexual violence, with violence by an intimate partner the most common type of abuse, suffered by 30 percent of women around the world. WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said the findings signalled “a global health problem of epidemic proportions”. The report found that 42 percent of victims of abuse by an intimate partner suffered injuries as a result of abuse and were also more likely to have alcohol problems, abortions and acquire STDs and HIV. Prof Charlotte Watts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Diseases (LSHTM) and a co-author of the report said that “this new data shows that violence against women is extremely common”. The report also adds that many women are wary of reporting sexual violence to authorities for “fear of stigma”.
Singapore Engulfed in Record Levels of Smog
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong advised the island nation’s citizens on Thursday to stay indoor as much as possible as the country endures unprecedented levels of air pollution, saying the problem could “easily last several weeks”. Singapore officials pointed at the illegal burning of woodland in neighbouring Indonesia as the main culprit of the sudden increase in pollution. The haze is a common problem in Singapore and Malaysia, often in midyear, when Indonesian farmers clear their land by starting fires. The problem often causes diplomatic strains between the regional neighbours. Indonesian Forest Ministry spokesman Sumarto Suharno said the government was trying to educate local farmers to seek alternatives to the traditional burning methods. “We have been able to reduce the regional haze problem significantly for years with help from local communities and will continue to undertake all efforts to prevent it from spreading”, said the spokesman.