#AceWorldNews says the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) delivered rations to a record 3.8 million people in #Syria in December. However, the agency said civilians in eastern provinces and besieged towns near the capital remain out of reach. “Their nutrition situation is expected to have deteriorated significantly,” Reuters quoted spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs as saying. The organization has tried several times over the last few months to reach besieged areas in and around Damascus, but without success. Fighting in Raqqa and Deir al-Zor also prevented aid convoys from reaching people in those eastern provinces for the second consecutive month. The agency aims to reach 4.25 million people in January.
#AceWorldNews says following the resignation of the Central African Republic’s two interim leaders, the top United Nations official in the crisis-riven country called for calm today, urging the authorities to mobilze around the speedy election of new transitional leadership.
In a statement issued by his office in Bagui, Babacar Gaye, Special Representative and Head of the UN Integrated Peace-building Office for the Central African Republic (BINUCA), took note of the resignation yesterday of President Michel Djotodia and Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye.
“He calls on members of the National Transitional Council (CNT) to mobilize around the urgent election of a new transitional executive, as agreed at the extraordinary summit of Heads of States of the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) yesterday, 10 January 2014, in N’djamena, Chad.” Armed attacks between ex-Séléka and Christian anti-balaka militias have escalated significantly in the past two weeks, despite the creation of a transitional government following the attack a year ago by mostly Muslim Séléka rebels which forced President François Bozizé to flee.
Since then, thousands of people are estimated to have been killed, nearly 1 million driven from their homes, and 2.2 million, about half the population, need humanitarian aid.
Delivering a message on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the ECCAS Summit on Thursday, Mr. Gaye stressed that the past year’s events have profoundly damaged the relationship between Muslim and Christian communities in the CAR, and warned that there is a real danger of further upheaval along religious lines.
“The horrific cycle of violence and retaliation between communities must stop immediately,” he said. “Distrust is high and violence has fuelled anger and a thirst for revenge,” he added, highlighting the need to prioritize reconciliation efforts. Disarmament of combatants in accordance with international standards is essential, Mr. Ban stressed, noting also the importance of demobilization and reintegration of the former fighters.
Today, Mr. Gaye called on the people and the leaders of the CAR to maintain calm and show maturity following the leaders’ resignations. “Along with the International Support Mission to the Central African Republic (MISCA), French forces, SANGARIS, have made important progress in securing Bangui,” he said, adding that their efforts must be supported, especially as numerous threats persist.
“The entire UN System and our humanitarian partners are fully mobilized to assist approximately two million people who are in urgent need of assistance across the country,” he said.
To that end, yesterday, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) issued an appeal for $40.2 million for CAR. That request, which is for the period to the end of March, follows appeals launched by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in late December for $152.2 million in immediate support needs for a 100-day plan for CAR.
UNHCR’s supplementary appeal for CAR aims to support more than 1 million people, including 86,400 refugees in neighbouring countries and 958,000 internally displaced persons.
#AceWorldNews says The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) announced today that as it continues to gain access to besieged areas, the number of people killed in the current round of fighting in the world’s youngest country “must be much higher” than the 1,000 figure given earlier in the conflict, which erupted nearly a month ago and continues to grind on.
In a news release from Juba, UNMISS notes fresh media reports, including in the New York Times, estimating that up to 10,000 people may have been killed since the conflict started on 15 December 2013, after President Salva Kiir said soldiers loyal to former vice-president Reik Machar, dismissed from office in July, launched an attempted coup.
On 26 December, 10 days into the crisis, the Mission estimated that 1,000 people may have been killed in the fighting. “This was based on UNMISS’ initial monitoring and investigations in Juba and other relatively more stable locations where its Human Rights Officers and other staff were able to access, investigate and document the unfolding developments,” the Mission said today.
Yet, after two weeks of subsequent violence, characterized by sometimes intense fighting with heavy weapons, there are now clear indications that the casualty count must be much higher, says UNMISS, adding that while it has continues to closely monitor the human rights situation, interviewing witnesses, and following leads, it “is not at this stage in a position to establish and verify the exact numbers of casualties.”
The Mission recalls that on 9 January, Hervé Ladsous, the head of UN Peacekeeping Operations, speaking to reporters in New York following a three hour briefing to the Security Council on the situation in South Sudan, said: “We are not able to provide final figures. We know it will be very substantially in excess of the 1,000 figure”.
Meanwhile the Mission says that despite serious security constraints due to the fighting in Bor and Bentiu, which has restricted access by its Human Rights Officers, during the course of last week, UNMISS began interviewing victims and eyewitnesses among displaced people from Bor who have arrived in Juba and Awerial County in neighbouring Lakes State. UNMISS Human Rights Officers have also been able to return to Bor on 9 January.
“Preliminary indications from these interviews and investigations in Bentiu and Malakal contain horrific allegations of atrocities by anti-Government forces against civilians and surrendering soldiers, including summary executions, torture, sexual violence and ethnically targeted killing,” the Mission says in the news releases, deploring these horrendous acts of violence and utter disregard for human life and dignity.
UNMISS chief Hilde Johnson called on all parties to cease hostilities immediately, and respect and protect civilians. “She reiterates Secretary-General [Ban Ki-moon's] reminder that those who commit such heinous acts will be held accountable,” the news release adds.
UNMISS vowed to continue investigating and documenting atrocities committed by both sides, in all affected areas and called on the Government and the anti-Government forces to cooperate with “these important investigations and to facilitate unhindered access by the Mission’s Human Rights Officers to all affected areas.”
In addition, this past Friday, Mr. Ban that announced that he would dispatch UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, to South Sudan this weekend to look into cases of violations believed to have been committed during the conflict, which has displaced some 230,000 people, more than a quarter of whom are seeking refuge on UN bases.
#AceWorldNews says In a statement read out during a formal meeting this evening Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, Permanent Representative of Jordan, which holds the Council’s rotating presidency for the month, the 15-nation body deplored the recent surge in violence in Anbar province, where, for the past week, media reports have citied deadly clashes between Iraqi-Troops and Al-Qaeda-Affiliated-Fighters.
Condemning the attacks by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) “against the people of Iraq in an attempt to destabilize the country and region,” the Council recognized that Iraqi security forces, local police and tribes in Anbar province are showing great courage as they fight to defeat ISIL in their cities.
“The Security Council urges the people of Iraq, including Iraqi tribes, local leaders, and Iraqi security forces in Anbar province, to continue, expand and strengthen their cooperation against violence and terror,” said the 15-member body, stresses the critical importance of continued national dialogue and unity.
The Council in its statement welcomed comments from Grand Ayatollah Sistani welcoming internally displaced residents of Anbar to Najaf and Karbala, as well as the commitment of a number of communities – Sunni, Shia and Kurd – to meet the needs of the displaced.
Expressing its strong support for the continued efforts of the Iraqi Government to help meet the security needs of the entire population of Iraq, the Council acknowledged the efforts of the Iraqi security forces and local police, “whose members are also being targeted and killed in ongoing attacks by terrorists”
The Council went on to welcome the Government’s commitment in the protection of the civilian population in Fallujah and elsewhere, and to the provision of humanitarian relief. It encouraged the Government to continue working with the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and humanitarian agencies to ensure the delivery of relief aid.
Concerned about the impact of the violence on civilians, the 15-nation body encouraged the safe passage of civilians trapped in conflict areas, as well as the safe return of internally displaced persons as conditions allow.
“The Security Council stresses the critical importance of continued national dialogue and unity, an inclusive political process, the holding of free and fair elections in April 2014, and the right to peaceful protest as guaranteed under the Iraqi Constitution,” the Council said, stressing its belief that this is vital to underpin a unified national stance against terrorism, and to ensure Iraq’s long-term security.
Reaffirming the need to bring perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism to justice, the Council members also reaffirmed that ISIL is subject to the arms embargo and assets freeze imposed by Council resolutions 1267 (1999) and 2083 (2012).
The Council reaffirmed the need to combat all forms of terrorism and reiterated that “no terrorist act can reverse the path towards peace, democracy and reconstruction in Iraq, which is supported by the people and the Government of Iraq and the international community.”
#AceWorldNews says the United Nations refugee agency today warned that Israel could be breaking international law by limiting the rights of asylum-seekers with a new amendment to the country’s anti-infiltration law.
Of particular concern to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is a provision in the new Amendment requiring asylum-seekers to reside in a so-called open residence facility.
“Since the facility was housing people who cannot be returned to their countries of origin for reasons of non-refoulement, the organization is concerned that this facility could, in effect, result in indefinite detention, with no release grounds,” UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said in Geneva.
The facility, located in the Negev desert, also restricts movement by mandating people reside there, and report in three times per day, among other discipline measures.
Mr. Edwards said that UNHCR understands the challenges faced by Israel in managing the reception of migrants and asylum-seekers. However, it was important that the treatment of asylum-seekers “be in line with international refugee and human rights law,” he concluded.
Under the Amendment, new asylum-seekers arriving in an irregular manner will automatically be detained for at least a year, as will people whose conditional release visas have expired.
Difficulties in renewing visas are meanwhile growing, the spokesperson noted, with reports of long queues and limited access to visa services.
#AceWorldNews says “Remember Haiti After Four Years” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the international community to increase its aid to Haiti on the fourth anniversary of the devastating earthquake that struck the impoverished country, noting progress already made in health and education, but warning that more needs to be done.
“Haiti remains extremely vulnerable on many fronts,” he said in a message delivered to UN staff in Port au Prince, the capital, by his Special Representative Sandra Honoré. “145,000 people continue to live in make-shift camps. The country is structurally exposed to recurrent food crises. Haiti has the lowest level of water and sanitation coverage in the Americas.”
“I continue to call on the international community to stand with Haiti at its time of dire need. We must intensify our efforts to help Haiti build a more stable and prosperous future for the all its people. Let us renew today our pledge to follow our fallen colleagues’ dream of a life of dignity for all the people of Haiti.”
The massive quake which struck Haiti on 12 January, 2010, killed some 220,000 people, including 102 UN staff, made 1.5 million others homeless, and caused widespread destruction and a major humanitarian crisis.
“Your commitment, combined with the resilience of the Haitian people, has made much progress possible,” Mr. Ban told UN staff. “Health systems are being strengthened, more children are in school, close to 90 per cent of the displaced population have left the camps and economic activities have resumed allowing Haiti to start moving from crisis to long-term development.”
Referring to his own visit to the country shortly after disaster struck, he said the personal stories of heroism, courage and dedication that he saw and heard “moved me deeply and showed the United Nations at its best.
“I pay tribute to all UN colleagues who have strived through the years to keep alive the memory of our fallen colleagues and friends and serve the people of Haiti,” he added. “This includes those who remained after the earthquake to deliver life-saving support and consolation to the other victims. It also includes those who arrived later to carry on the worthy cause of helping Haiti rebuild its future.
#AceWorldNews says the United Nations human rights office today expressed concern about a decision by the Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs to declare illegal a coalition of 54 mainly non-Islamic civil society groups focused on human rights known by the acronym COMANGO.
“We call upon Government of Malaysia to amend the Societies Act 1966, maximize the space for human rights activists and organisations to operate freely, and ensure that they can conduct their legitimate activities without intimidation or harassment,” the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, told journalists in Geneva.
The COMANGO coalition submitted joint reports to both the UN Human Rights Council’s 2009 and 2013 Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR) of the situation in Malaysia.
Since its submission to the second cycle of the UPR, which took place on 24 October 2013, the coalition has reportedly been subjected to a series of harassment and threats, allegedly by both State and non-State actors. The coalition has been accused of attacking Islam and of spreading beliefs that do not conform to Islamic teachings.
The Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs declared in a press statement on 8 January that COMANGO promotes rights which are not in line with Islam, and is therefore illegal.
The statement also noted that only 15 of the 54 organizations are registered under the Societies Act 1966.
“We are concerned by what appears to be an act of reprisal against COMANGO for its engagement with international human rights mechanism,” the spokesperson added.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, High Commissioner Navi Pillay and the Geneva-based Human Rights Council have persistently called for the protection of individuals and members of groups that cooperate with the UN, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights from acts of intimidation or reprisal.