World News in Brief: Trafficking victims need more support, deadly risks of inactivity, executions in Iraq

Human Rights

In her report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Special Rapporteur Siobhán Mullally said that the 2018 Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration commits countries “to save lives and prevent migrant deaths and injuries through individual or joint search and rescue operations” at sea.

But, that hasn’t stopped at least 8,565 people from dying on routes worldwide in 2023, “making it the deadliest year on record”, Ms. Mullally said. Slightly more than half the deaths were a result of drowning, she added.

“For victims of trafficking at sea, first and foremost, the right to life must be ensured as a fundamental and non-derogable human right. States have an obligation to ensure that maritime actors can fulfil their duties towards persons in distress at sea,” she said.

Search and rescue

“It is essential, therefore, that maritime actors are fully supported in meeting their search and rescue obligations under international law. Those obligations must be implemented without discrimination or regard to the status of the persons being rescued.”

Ms. Mullally highlighted the critical situation facing Rohingya refugees, many of whom are at risk from trafficking at sea, including many child refugees.

She said that nearly 4,500 Rohingya embarked on perilous sea journeys in 2023, and 569 were reported dead or missing. Compared with a year earlier, the number of people leaving the shore increased by 21 per cent, while the number of dead or missing rose by 63 per cent.

A third of adults at risk of disease due to physical inactivity

Nearly one third of adults worldwide, approximately 1.8 billion people, did not meet the recommended levels of physical activity in 2022, a new study undertaken by researchers from the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed.

If the trend continues, levels of inactivity are projected to rise to 35 per cent by 2030.

“Physical inactivity is a silent threat to global health, contributing significantly to the burden of chronic diseases,” said Dr. Rüdiger Krech, director of health promotion at WHO.

Adults should have 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise – or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity – each week, according to WHO recommendations. Physical inactivity puts adults at greater risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes, type 2 diabetes, dementia and cancers such as breast and colon.

The highest rates of physical inactivity were observed in the high-income Asia-Pacific region (48 per cent) and South Asia (45 per cent), with levels of inactivity in other regions ranging from 14 per cent in Oceania to 28 per cent in high-income Western countries.

Gender disparity

Physical inactivity is still more common among women globally compared with men, with inactivity rates of 34 per cent compared to 29 per cent. In some countries, this difference is as much as 20 percentage points.

Additionally, people over 60 are less active than other adults, highlighting the importance of promoting physical activity for that age group.

Despite the worrying results, almost half of the world’s countries have made some improvements over the past decade, and 22 countries were identified as likely to reach the global target of reducing inactivity by 15 per cent by 2030.

Scale of Iraq’s arbitrary executions may be a crime against humanity

The “systematic” execution of prisoners sentenced to death based on confessions extracted through torture under an “ambiguous” counterterrorism law, amount to arbitrary deprivation of life and may amount to a crime against humanity, a group of human rights experts said on Thursday.

“We are alarmed by the high number of executions publicly reported since 2016, nearly 400 in total, including 30 this year, and the explicit political commitment to continue implementing death sentences,” the UN Human Rights Council-appointed experts said.

This carries on “in total disregard” of reported irregularities in the administration of justice, cases of enforced disappearances and torture-tainted confessions, which have fuelled the sentencing policy, the Special Rapporteurs added.

As there are some 8,000 prisoners on death row in Iraq, the experts said that when arbitrary executions are widespread and systematic, they may amount to crimes against humanity.

They said Iraq and other countries which retain the death penalty for ordinary crimes must reserve the penalty for only the “most serious crimes”, meaning intentional killing.

‘Deeply troubling’

“We insist that most of the crimes detailed in articles two and three of the counterterrorism law no.13 of 2005…fail to meet the threshold of the ‘most serious crimes’, rendering these executions arbitrary in nature,” the experts said.

“The alleged political use of death sentences, mainly against Sunni Iraqi males, is deeply troubling.”

They again urged the Iraqi Government to immediately halt all executions, ensure a fair retrial for prisoners on death row, particularly those accused of terrorism offences, and promptly initiate thorough and impartial investigations.

Special Rapporteurs and other UN Human Rights Council-appointed rights experts are independent of any government, receive no salary for their work and serve in their individual capacity.

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