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Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ message on the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, observed on 7 April:

I am privileged to participate in the commemoration of the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda. 

This year marks 27 years since more than 1 million people were systematically murdered in less than three months in Rwanda.  They were overwhelmingly Tutsi, but also Hutu and others who opposed the genocide.

Those days in 1994 remain in our collective conscience as among the most horrific in recent human history.  On this Day, we honour those who were murdered, we reflect on the suffering and we recognize the resilience of those who survived.  As we join in solidarity with the people of Rwanda, we must take a hard look at today’s world and ensure that we heed the lessons of 27 years ago.

Today, around the globe, people are threatened by extremist groups determined on boosting their ranks through social polarization and political and cultural manipulation.  These extremist movements represent the principal security threat in many countries.  While the technology and techniques that extremists use are evolving, the vile messages and rhetoric remain the same.  The dehumanization of communities, misinformation and hate speech are stoking the fires of violence.

The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the urgency of addressing deepening divides.  The global health crisis has profoundly affected the entire spectrum of human rights in every region, further fuelling discrimination, social polarization and inequalities — all of which can lead to violence and conflict.  We saw what happened in Rwanda in 1994, and we know the horrific consequences when hate is allowed to prevail. 

Preventing history from repeating itself requires countering these hate-driven movements that have become a transnational threat.  We must redouble our efforts and forge a common agenda, to renew and reinvigorate our collective actions going forward.  In doing this, we must defend human rights and continue to push for policies that fully respect all members of society.

Rwanda experienced one of the most painful chapters in modern human history, but its people have rebuilt from the ashes.  After suffering unspeakable gender-based violence and discrimination, Rwanda’s women now hold more than 60 per cent of parliamentary seats — making Rwanda a world leader.  The people of Rwanda have shown us the power of justice and reconciliation and the possibility of progress.

On this solemn Day, let us all commit to building a world guided by human rights and dignity for all. UN

A prison officer receives the first injection of the Oxford AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine from a nurse at Mulago referral hospital in Kampala, on March 10, 2021. PHOTO/AFP.

At least 3,000 nurses have been killed by Covid-19, the global nurses' federation said Thursday as it warned of a looming exodus of health workers traumatised by the pandemic.

Exactly one year on since the World Health Organization (WHO) first described Covid-19 as a pandemic, the International Council of Nurses said burn-out and stress had led millions of nurses to consider quitting the profession.

And once the pandemic is over, a dwindling number of experienced nurses could be left to handle the giant backlog of regular hospital care that had been postponed due to the crisis, the ICN warned.

The known death toll of nurses killed by the disease -- compiled from just 60 countries -- is likely to be a gross underestimate of the full total, the federation said.

ICN chief executive Howard Catton said nurses had gone through "mass traumatisation" during the pandemic, being pushed to physical and mental exhaustion.

"They reach a point where they've given everything they can," he told reporters.

Catton said the global workforce of 27 million nurses was six million short going into the pandemic -- and four million were heading for retirement by 2030.

- 'On a precipice' -

In a report, the ICN said the pandemic "could trigger a mass exodus from the profession", from as early as the second half of 2021. The global nurse shortage could widen to nearly 13 million, it added.

"We could be on a precipice," said Catton, recalling that it took three to four years of training to produce a novice nurse.

He said nurses had done a "phenomenal" job "to lead the world through this pandemic", saying they would share an equal platform with the vaccine creators in the eventual history of Covid-19.

But once the pandemic has passed, frazzled nurses will then have to deal with all the unmet healthcare needs and waiting lists, whilst also facing likely staff shortages.

Founded in 1899, the ICN is a federation of more than 130 national nursing associations.

It called for governments to invest in training more new nurses to address the global shortage.

It also called for better pay to encourage existing staff to stay on -- to bolster health systems for future crises, if nothing else.

- Vaccination call -

The WHO wants to see healthcare workers in all countries being vaccinated within the first 100 days of 2021.

Catton said that was the start line rather than the finish line, and voiced "grave concerns" at the unequal distribution of vaccines between rich and poor countries.

For nurses, facing an elevated risk of infection, immunisation "is about their right to being protected at work," he said.

"Not being protected at work adds to their distress." 

Recalling the public appreciation shown towards nurses in the early stages of the pandemic, Catton said that now, "overwhelmingly, nurses would rather be getting their vaccine than a round of applause".

The ICN strongly recommended that all nurses take a Covid-19 jab.

"It is an issue of protection and safety for patients," Catton said.

"If somebody doesn't have the vaccine then it may well be that you have to look at redeploying them to other areas." By AFP/Daily Monitor


Sign outside the Muha High Court in Bujumbura, Burundi. Photo SOS Médias Burundi


(Nairobi) – Burundian authorities should drop baseless charges and release eight former Burundian refugees who were forcibly returned from Tanzania in August 2020. On February 26, 2021, the Muha High Court in Bujumbura ruled against their provisional release, even though the prosecution produced no evidence to justify their continued detention and their right to due process has repeatedly been violated.

“The Burundian state is adding insult to injury by prosecuting a group of forcibly returned refugees who have already been subjected to heinous crimes in Tanzania,” said Lewis Mudge, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “This sham trial highlights both how politicized refugee returns are and the influence the executive still holds over Burundi’s courts.”

The eight men – Anaclet Nkunzimana, Felix Cimpaye, Radjabu Ndizeye, Revocatus Ndayishimiye, Saidi Rwasa, Emmanuel Nizigama, Didier Bizimana, and Ezéchiel Stéphane Niyoyandemye – were arrested in Mtendeli and Nduta refugee camps in Tanzania between late July and early August 2020. Tanzanian authorities detained them incommunicado for several weeks at Kibondo police station, where they were tortured.

The refugees said that during their time at Kibondo police station, Tanzanian national intelligence and police abused them and asked for one million Tanzanian shillings (US$430) to free them. Unable to pay, the refugees were taken by the security forces to the Burundian border with their hands tied and their faces covered. Four are currently in Bubanza prison and four in Muramvya prison.

Tanzania’s transfer of detained Burundian refugees or asylum seekers to Burundi without basic due process violates the international legal prohibition against refoulement, the forcible return of anyone to a place where they would face a real risk of persecution, torture or other ill-treatment, or a threat to their life.

A first pretrial hearing in their case was held on February 24, 2021, six months after their files were transferred to the high court on September 7. Burundi’s code of criminal procedure gives the court two weeks to organize the hearing after it receives the file. Prison authorities only informed the detainees late on February 23 that their cases would be heard the next morning.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Burundi ratified in 1990, states that “It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody.” The Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that interprets the ICCPR, stated in a general comment that “Detention pending trial must be based on an individualized determination that it is reasonable and necessary taking into account all the circumstances, for such purposes as to prevent flight, interference with evidence or the recurrence of crime.”

During the hearing, one of the three judges said that the case was “political” in nature and the prosecution provided no evidence to support its charges of “participation in armed groups” and “threat to the national territorial integrity.” A source present said the prosecution failed to mention the first charge at all during the hearing. The prosecution accused the former refugees of discouraging fellow refugees in Tanzania from returning to Burundi to support the charge of threatening “national territorial integrity,” even though the refugees’ decisions to return to Burundi have no bearing on this issue.

The prosecution should drop these baseless charges, Human Right Watch said. Instead, prosecutors should investigate the role of state agents, including the national intelligence service (Service national de renseignement, SNR), in the forced return of the refugees and the intelligence service’s alleged collaboration with Tanzanian police and intelligence agents.

In December, a TRIAL International report found that entrenched structural deficiencies in the Burundian judiciary have been exacerbated since the country’s political crisis began in 2015.

The government should institute wide-ranging reforms to fulfill President Évariste Ndayishimiye’s promise to end impunity after the May 2020 elections, and address the underlying politicization of the judiciary that has led to other similar abusive prosecutions, Human Rights Watch said.

Between October 2019 and November 2020, Human Rights Watch documented that Tanzanian police and intelligence agents, in some cases collaborating with Burundian authorities, arbitrarily arrested, forcibly disappeared, tortured, and extorted Burundian refugees and asylum seekers. Since November, Human Rights Watch has continued to receive credible reports of threats, harassment, and arrests of refugees in Tanzania.

On December 15, the special rapporteur on refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons and migrants of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights expressed concern about the situation of Burundian refugees in Tanzania and reported violations of fundamental rights such as access to asylum and the principle of non-refoulement. The commission and the Office of the African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs should urgently press for the release of the unjustly detained former refugees.

On February 28, the United Nations Refugee Agency, UNHCR, expressed concern about messages of distress “from a group of 10 asylum-seekers currently in a detention facility in Mutukula, in northwestern Tanzania… express[ing] fears for their safety upon being deported from Tanzania.”

Burundian authorities have repeatedly spoken of the need for refugees to return from exile. In a speech during his swearing-in ceremony, Ndayishimiye said: “We call on all Burundians who wish to return to their nation to come back.” Yet in the same speech, he also threatened countries that support “Burundians who indulge in sabotage,” most likely referring to refugees who fled the country due to their political or human rights activism.

A Human Rights Watch report in December 2019 found that the fear of violence, arbitrary arrest, and deportation was driving many Burundian refugees and asylum seekers in Tanzania out of the country. 

In Burundi, real or perceived opposition supporters, including returning refugees, are at risk of grave abuses, Human Rights Watch said. A UN Human Rights Council-mandated Commission of Inquiry reported in September 2020 that serious human rights violations have persisted in Burundi. The commission found that some returnees continued to face hostility from local officials and the ruling party’s youth wing, the Imbonerakure, and that “[r]eturnees have sometimes been victims of serious violations that have forced them to go back into exile.”

“The real crime in this case is the forced return of refugees from Tanzania to Burundi and the absence of due process or an effective remedy,” Mudge said. “If the prosecution cannot provide evidence to support their allegations, they should immediately drop their case and release the former refugees.” - Human Rights Watch

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