Libya: UN Urges Respect for Right to Life and Protection of Children as Violence Rages

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–17 March 2011 – The head of the United Nations agency tasked with promoting the right to freedom of expression today urged the authorities in Libya to respect human life and ensure that citizens are not denied their rights, notably the right of children to education in a safe environment.

Irina Bokova, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) also reiterated her previous call to the Libyan Government to respect the right to freedom of expression and ensure that journalists can carry out their duties freely without fear of intimidation or attack.

“As the head of the United Nations organization in charge of education and communication, I am particularly concerned by reports of violations against the basic right of children to receive an education, in a safe environment,” said Ms. Bokova in a press release.

“Schools are sacrosanct. It is inadmissible that children be deprived of their education, or that teachers and pupils be subject to intimidation by any party as a result of the social upheavals occurring in Libya at the moment.

“I am equally appalled by the recurrent reports of violence against the media, clearly aimed at preventing journalists from doing their job. It is essential that the Libyan authorities do all they can to secure the freedom of journalists that have gone missing in the country,” she added.

Her statement comes amid reports of intensified fighting and the disappearance of a number of journalists.

Libyan authorities are engaged in an offensive against citizens seeking the ouster of the administration led by Muammar al-Qadhafi.

On Tuesday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke with Libya’s Foreign Minister Musa Kusa and through him urged the authorities to immediately halt the violence against civilians.

“We are exploring all possible ways to get urgent humanitarian assistance to the civilian population,” Mr. Ban told leaders of Central American States when he met them on a visit to Guatemala yesterday. “I understand the Security Council is also very seriously considering the recommendation of the League of Arab States on [a] no-fly zone.”

The imposition of a no-fly zone is intended to halt the aerial bombardment by the Libyan air force of areas currently held by those demanding Mr. Qadhafi’s ouster.

“Throughout the upheaval in the broader Arab world, my message has been clear and consistent: leaders of the region must heed the genuine aspirations of their people more attentively, more seriously,” Mr. Ban said. “There is no place for violence. Violence must stop,” he added.

The Secretary-General will later today travel to Tunisia and Egypt, two North African countries where mass protests by citizens demanding greater democracy recently forced incumbent presidents to relinquish power after decades in office.

“In each country, we have seen encouraging progress,” Mr. Ban said in his address to the Central American leaders. “Tunisia’s new leaders have worked with their people in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation. Together, they have agreed on a road-map to a common democratic future.”

“Egypt, too, is moving forward in a similar spirit,” he added.

“For each of these brave peoples, the road ahead will be hard. During my trip, I will sit down with Government officials, activists, youth groups, women’s organizations and leaders of all segments of civil society. I will listen to their views on the way ahead and offer the United Nations’ help, wherever and in any way possible.”

The future of the Arab world is for Arabs to decide, the Secretary-General said. “But clearly, they will need the help and solidarity of the entire international community.”

The UN World Food Programme (WFP), meanwhile, has boosted aid delivery to people fleeing the violence in Libya with the provision of more than 15,000 daily hot meals cooked in a transit camp along Libya’s border with Tunisia.

Over the past week, WFP and its partner humanitarian organizations have been running the two largest food distribution points in Choucha transit camp. The centre hosts between 15,000 and 18,000 people, mainly Bangladeshis and African migrant workers, waiting to depart for their home countries.

“WFP teams are working now on setting up additional feeding centres as well as contingency planning for a possible influx of people crossing the border,” said Nicholas Crawford, WFP’s head of operations at the border.

The hot meals are part of WFP’s emergency $39.2 million regional operation in North Africa designed to provide food aid to more than 1 million of the most vulnerable people inside Libya, those who have crossed into Tunisia and Egypt, as well as to communities affected by the wider economic impact of the civil unrest and violence.