Campaign addresses UN on world's endangered children

 In a statement yesterday to the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Jubilee Campaign appealed on behalf of millions of children around the world who live on the streets, in dire poverty, being abused, exploited and killed before they reach adulthood. Jubilee condemned the killing of street children in Brazil, Honduras and Guatemala. In Salvador alone, the capital of Brazil's Bahia state, from 1991 to 2000, 1,453 children and youth were murdered. Many locals regard the street children as no more than vermin and see their deaths as a form of social cleansing. For example, on February 20th 1997 six Brazilian street children were shot dead by security guards simply for trying to board a bus without their bus fare. The campaign highlighted the commercial sexual exploitation which many poor Brazilian children face and informed the UN Commission that in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, there are an estimated 150,000 child prostitutes, controlled by a strong and organised mafia, working in bars, prostitution houses, massage salons and hotels. Jubilee told the UN Commission that in Honduras, the Children's Welfare Organisation, Casa Alianza, has documented the murders and extrajudicial executions of more than 1,600 street children and youth since 1998. Less than 5% of the murders have resulted in any conviction. Jubilee Campaign also informed the Commission that in Vietnam, the indigenous Degar people of the Central Highlands, face intense and systematic human rights abuses from the Vietnamese authorities including extrajudicial executions and anti-Christian persecution. Degar children are often prevented by the authorities from having an education if their parents are Christians. Jubilee called on the UN Human Rights Commission to pressure the Vietnamese government to stop their human rights abuses against the Degar people and to send the relevant UN Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights to investigate the situation there. In another speech to the UN Commission, Jubilee highlighted the appalling plight of North Korean refugees in China. There are an estimated 300,000 North Korean refugees hiding in China, having fled famine and persecution. The Chinese authorities' response when they apprehend these refugees is to forcibly repatriate them, despite the real risks they face of imprisonment, torture and execution in North Korea. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) has a bilateral agreement with China which gives it the right to unimpeded access to refugees. However, such access to the North Korean refugees has been denied to UNHCR by the Chinese authorities. According to the bilateral agreement, the UNHCR is free to invoke binding arbitration on this point but has failed to do so. In its speech to the Commission, Jubilee Campaign condemned the Chinese government's forced repatriation of North Korean refugees and UNHCR's failure to bring China's misconduct to arbitration and stated: " One has to wonder just what the body count needs to be before the UNHCR will seriously stand up for its mandate." Jubilee's Parliamentary Officer, Wilfred Wong, who was at the Commission, said: "Jubilee Campaign has been lobbying at the UN Human Rights Commission for at least 12 years now, on a wide range of human rights issues in many different countries. Although this is not the only kind of human rights campaigning which can be done, with numerous governments from all over the world participating at the Commission, it is certainly the highest United Nations body specialising on human rights."

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