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UNITED NATIONS

Sweden slammed for UN rights failures

Sweden has come in for harsh criticism from the country's United Nations association and 15 other organizations for failing to abide by a number of UN conventions.

“There’s an image that Sweden is far ahead of others when it comes to human rights. That’s true is some areas. But if you scratch the surface things look different,” Sweden’s UN association spokesperson Pekka Johansson told the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

The government was first called to an investigation by the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva back in May.

At the time, Sweden was criticized for an increasing number of hate crimes which seldom resulted in criminal charges. Of 155 attacks against ethnic minorities in 2007, only five cases were eventually brought to trial.

In addition, more hate crimes are Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, and homophobic, with an increasing amount of racist propaganda appearing on the internet and in Sweden’s schools.

As a remedy, Sweden ought to implement a ban on racist organizations, according to a report submitted to the Human Rights Council on Monday by Sweden’s UN association and several other human rights organizations.

Sweden is also criticized for failing to provide adequate healthcare and education to immigrants, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, and for workplace and public transit discrimination against people with physical disabilities.

The report also takes issue with Sweden’s commitment to gender equality and women’s rights, pointing out that sexually-related violence is on the rise, as are cases of workplace discrimination against women. Women with full time jobs were also found to earn about 20 percent less than men who have equivalent jobs.

Other human rights failings, according to the report, include the ongoing discrimination of the Roma and Sami minorities in Sweden.

“This is serious criticism. Especially striking is the increase in hate crimes and violence against women. Sweden has been criticized before and failed to act. Sweden ought to serve as a good example and we hope that our recommendations can contribute to an improvement,” Linda Nordin Thorslund, the interim secretary general of Sweden’s UN association, told the newspaper.

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UN

Sweden to host UN Yemen talks

The United Nations intends to convene peace talks on Yemen soon after receiving firm assurances from the parties that they will attend negotiations in Sweden, the UN envoy said Friday.

Sweden to host UN Yemen talks
Yemen's Deputy UN ambassador Marwan Ali Noman Al-Dobhany during a meeting last month of the United Nations Security Council on Yemen at UN headquarters. Photo: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews/TT

The Saudi-backed government and the Huthi rebels have shown a “renewed commitment” to work on a political solution to end a war that has driven millions to the brink of famine, Martin Griffiths told the Security Council.

“With this in mind, I intend to reconvene the parties shortly and to do so in Sweden,” he said. “I believe we are close to resolving issues to make this happen.”

“I have received firm assurances from the leadership of the Yemeni parties … that they are committed to attending these consultations. I believe they are genuine.”

Griffiths plans to travel to the rebel-held capital of Sanaa next week to finalize arrangements and offered to travel with the Huthi delegation to Sweden “if that's what is needed.”

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has agreed to “logistical arrangements” to pave the way for talks including medical evacuations out of Sanaa, he added.

Griffiths announced he was close to reaching a deal on an exchange of prisoners and detainees, in a further confidence-building measure ahead of planned talks.

The United Nations had announced talks in Geneva in September that never materialized after the Huthis put forward last-minute demands.

The Saudi-led coalition has been waging a war in Yemen since March 2015 to push back the Iran-backed Huthis and restore to power Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose government is recognized by the United Nations.

Pressure to end the Saudi-led military campaign has grown following the killing by Saudi agents of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which sparked global outrage.

Back from a visit to Yemen, the head of the UN World Food Programme warned that the country faces a full-blown famine in about six months because of the economic collapse from the war.

“What I have seen in Yemen this week is the stuff of nightmares, of horror, of deprivation, of misery,” David Beasley told the council. “Children are already dying.”

Eight million people are affected by severe food shortages, according to UN officials, who warn that up to 14 million — or half of Yemen's population — are at risk of famine.

“This is a crucial moment for Yemen,” Grffiths said of the talks in Sweden, warning that a flareup of fighting on the ground could derail the peace effort. No date for the talks was announced.

READ ALSO: Sweden calls on UN to halt offensive on Yemen port

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