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Posts tagged ‘United Nations’

UN says it is concerned about LNA siege of Derna

Tunis, 6 August 2017

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Libya, Maria Ribeiro, has expressed concern about reports of severe shortages of medicine and other basic necessities in Derna.

The town, controlled by Islamist mujahideen, has been subject to a blockade by the Libyan National Army. However, this was tightened last week following the execution by the mujahideen of the LNA’s Air Colonel Adel Jehani whose plane was shot down near the town. Responding to the killing, the head of the Omar Mukhtar Operations Room tasked with taking Derna, Brigadier Salem Rifadi, last Sunday declared a total blockade. No food, medicines, cooking gas, petrol or anything else would be allowed in, he said.

For the past week, all roads in and out of the town have been blocked. Three days ago, faced with deteriorating conditions and fearing a humanitarian disaster, Derna’s council of elders issued an appeal.

“The town is being slaughtered in cold-blood by the siege. We call on all to put an end to it,” it said.

Telling on all sides in the conflict to respect humanitarian and human rights law, Ribeiro has called on the LNA to relax the blockade.

“I urge all parties to consider the safety and the wellbeing of the civilians a top priority and allow for the safe delivery of humanitarian supplies to ensure continued access to basic services, especially health”, she said.

The State Council’s second deputy president has added his voice to concerns about the siege, calling on Arab and European countries to put pressure on the LNA to lft it.

Source: Libya Herald.

Link: https://www.libyaherald.com/2017/08/06/un-says-it-is-concerned-about-lna-siege-of-derna/.

UN report details killings, butchery in Congo this year

August 04, 2017

GENEVA (AP) — U.N. human rights investigators have issued a new report documenting the killings of more than 250 people, including 62 children, in central Congo over three recent months that could turn into “wider ethnic cleansing.”

The investigators based the report on interviews in June of 96 people who fled Congo’s Kasai provinces into neighboring Angola. It decried alleged violence involving a new militia, Bana Mura, backed by Congolese security officials.

U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein urged Congo’s government to “act now to prevent such violence from tipping into wider ethnic cleansing.” His office also called on militia groups to lay down their weapons, and provided photos of survivors with long scars and dismembered limbs. Zeid described accounts of “the screams of people being burned alive” and others who were “cut down.”

“Interviewees indicated that local security forces and other officials actively fomented, fueled, and occasionally led, attacks on the basis of ethnicity,” a U.N. statement said. Violence in the Kasai region by the Kamwina Nsapu militia erupted last August with the killing of a regional tribal leader who had defied the government of President Joseph Kabila.

Based on the accounts from people who fled between March and June, the report counted 251 killings, attributing 150 of them to the Bana Mura and another 79 to the Kamwina Nsapu. Government forces were blamed for another 22.

In far higher numbers, the Catholic church has estimated more than 3,300 people have died in the fighting since the tribal leader was killed in a military operation a year ago. The violence in the once-calm Kasai region comes on top of a broadly unstable situation in Congo, which has faced years of tensions and bloodshed in the east and where Kabila’s government has defied international calls for Congo to hold elections as required under its constitution. The government says it needs more time.

Nearly half a million displaced Syrians return home: UN

2017-06-30

GENEVA – Nearly half a million displaced Syrians have returned to their homes since the beginning of the year, mainly to find family members and check on property, the UN refugee agency said Friday.

The agency said it had seen “a notable trend of spontaneous returns to and within Syria in 2017.”

Since January, about 440,000 people who had been displaced within the war-ravaged country had returned to their homes, mainly in Aleppo, Hama, Homs and Damascus, Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the agency, known as the UNHCR, told reporters in Geneva.

In addition, around 31,000 refugees in neighboring countries had also returned, he said, bringing to 260,000 the number of refugees who have returned to the country since 2015.

But Mahecic said this is a mere “fraction” of the five million Syrian refugees hosted in the region.

He said the main factors prompting the displaced to return home were “seeking out family members, checking on property, and, in some cases, a real or perceived improvement in security conditions in parts of the country.”

He said it was too early to say if the returns might be directly linked to a palpable drop in violence since Turkey agreed at talks in Astana in May with Russia and Iran, allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to establish four safe zones across Syria to ban flights and ensure aid drops.

But this week, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told the Security Council that since the May 4 deal, “violence is clearly down. Hundreds of Syrian lives continue to be spared every week, and many towns have returned to some degree of normalcy.”

Mahecic nonetheless cautioned that “while there is overall increased hope linked to the recent Astana and Geneva peace talks, UNHCR believes conditions for refugees to return in safety and dignity are not yet in place in Syria.”

“The sustainability of security improvements in many return areas is uncertain, and there remain significant risks of protection thresholds for voluntary, safe and dignified returns not being met in parts of the country,” he said.

“Access to displaced population inside Syria remains a key challenge,” he added.

But “given the returns witnessed so far this year and in light of a progressively increased number of returns”, the agency had begun scaling up its operations inside Syria to better be able address the needs of the returnees, he said.

Syria’s war has killed more than 320,000 people and forced millions from their homes since it began in March 2011.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=83717.

UN: Number of global displaced up to 65.6 million last year

June 19, 2017

GENEVA (AP) — The number of people displaced from their homes across the world due to war and persecution climbed slightly to a record 65.6 million last year, with the escalating conflict in South Sudan largely accounting for the rise, the United Nations refugee agency said Monday.

The figure that includes refugees, asylum seekers and people uprooted inside their own countries was some 300,000 higher at the end of last year than at the end of 2015, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said. That was a smaller increase than in the four previous years, prompting the U.N. agency to warn against complacency.

“Although these figures represent small shifts compared to the previous year … the relatively stable figures mask a very unstable situation,” agency chief Filippo Grandi said ahead of the official release of the report Monday. “This is becoming a forgotten crisis.”

Of the total, some 10.3 million people were newly displaced in 2016, around two-thirds fleeing within their own countries, according to an annual report by the group. The total refugee population — people who fled their home countries — was about 22.5 million people, and nearly half of those were children. In Germany, which vastly expanded its acceptance of people fleeing war from places like Syria, the number of refugees doubled to over 600,000 last year.

Syria’s six-year civil war remained the largest single cause of displacement, with 12 million people — around two-thirds of the population — either uprooted within the country or fleeing abroad, the group said.

They were followed by some 7.7 million Colombians, 4.7 million Afghans, 4.2 million Iraqis and 3.3 million South Sudanese. Turkey, which has taken in the largest number of Syrians, to a total of 2.9 million at the end of 2015. It has since exceeded 3 million.

Syria is the only country in which a majority of the population is forcibly displaced. South Sudan, with a little over a quarter, has the next-biggest proportion — and fastest growing displaced population overall, the agency said. By the end of 2016, 3.3 million people from the world’s newest country had fled their homes, more than half to neighboring countries.

“The international neglect that you see here is matched nowhere else in the world,” Grandi told The Associated Press on Sunday while visiting South Sudan’s largest internally displaced camp in the town of Bentiu. “Wherever you look there are dead ends.”

Thousands of South Sudanese now live in U.N protected camps, including 80 percent of Bentiu’s population. The figures are based on the agency’s own data and on numbers reported by governments and non-governmental organizations.

Moulson reported from Berlin. Sam Mednick in Bentiu, South Sudan, contributed to this report.

Al-Qaeda-linked group claims deadly UN base attack in Mali

2017-06-09

LONDON – A powerful Al-Qaeda-linked group on Friday claimed an attack on a United Nations camp that killed three peacekeepers in Kidal in Mali’s troubled north.

The Group to Support Islam and Muslims, a fusion of three Malian jihadist groups with previous Al-Qaeda links, posted a statement on its Telegram channel saying it had targeted the UN base “with a set of mortar shells”, wounding soldiers and causing significant material damage, the SITE extremism monitor reported.

The UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA, said earlier on Friday their Kidal camp “came under heavy rocket/mortar fire” and “a little later a position nearby was attacked” outside their base, killing three peacekeepers and wounding eight more.

The Group to Support Islam and Muslims, also known as Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen in Arabic, is a fusion of three Malian jihadist groups with previous Al-Qaeda links formed in March.

Led by the Malian jihadist Iyad Ag Ghaly, a former leader of the Ansar Dine Islamists, the group has claimed multiple attacks on domestic and foreign forces since its formation.

The UN mission said it “condemned in the strongest terms these cowardly attacks against its personnel and the danger they cause for the civilian population.”

The attack is just the latest to target the 12,000-strong force in the west African nation. Guinean and Chadian soldiers make up the majority of troops stationed at the Kidal camp.

MINUSMA began work in 2013, providing security and assisting Malian troops struggling to keep the country safe. It has been targeted constantly by jihadists, with dozens of peacekeepers killed.

Northern Mali fell to jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in March 2012, including Ansar Dine, and although these forces were driven out of key towns by a French-led military intervention the following year, the Islamists have now spread further south.

Since 2015, jihadists have targeted Mali’s center and their activities have spilled over into neighboring countries including Niger and Burkina Faso.

Their last attack killed two peacekeepers on May 23 near Aguelhok, near the border with Algeria, while a Liberian peacekeeper was killed earlier in May close to Timbuktu.

Both attacks were also claimed by the Group to Support Islam and Muslims.

France on Tuesday asked the UN Security Council to authorize the deployment of a five-nation African military force to buttress the fight against jihadists in the Sahel region, with its base in Mali.

The force would be under a separate command from MINUSMA and France’s own counter-terror force in the Sahel region, but will be backed by the UN and European Union.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=83467.

UN chief to meet rival Cyprus leaders in New York

May 31, 2017

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — United Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will meet the rival leaders of ethnically divided Cyprus at U.N. headquarters in New York amid faltering reunification talks, officials said Wednesday.

Cyprus government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said that the meeting Sunday evening will aim to carry out a review of the state of play in negotiations that are now at a standstill. Aleem Siddique, a U.N. spokesman in Cyprus, said the U.N. chief looks forward to welcoming the leaders to New York.

Last week, U.N. envoy Espen Barth Eide broke off mediation efforts after the island’s Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and the leader of the breakaway Turkish Cypriots, Mustafa Akinci, failed to agree on how to move the peace process toward a final summit aiming for a comprehensive accord.

Guterres has intervened in an apparent bid to prevent the two year-old talks, which have made significant headway at reunifying the island as a federation, from unravelling. On Tuesday, Anastasiades warned that talks were now at risk of deadlock because of an insistence by Turkey and the breakaway Turkish Cypriots to keep Turkish troops deployed on the island even after a peace deal.

Turkey has maintained 35,000 troops in the country’s breakaway Turkish Cypriot north since mounting an invasion in 1974 in response to a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Greek Cypriots see the troops as a threat and want them removed as part of any peace deal. Anastasiades has proposed the deployment of an international police force to oversee security.

The minority Turkish Cypriots say a peace deal must include the deployment of Turkish troops they see as their only security guarantee. Anastasiades insists on prioritizing at a final summit in Geneva an agreement on withdrawing Turkish troops before resolving all other outstanding issues.

Akinci maintains that all issues should be discussed in a give-and-take process.

UN report shows hundreds of Central African Republic abuses

May 30, 2017

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — A sweeping new United Nations report identifies hundreds of human rights violations in Central African Republic since 2003 that may amount to war crimes, including massacres, gang rapes and entire villages burned to the ground.

Tuesday’s report comes amid growing fears that the country terrorized by multiple armed groups is once again slipping into the sectarian bloodshed that left thousands dead between late 2013 and 2015. U.N. investigators highlight more than 600 abuses over a 12-year period, and are urging both prosecution and the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission. While the report refrains from identifying the alleged perpetrators unless they are already the subject of sanctions or an arrest warrant, those identities are known and are being kept in a confidential database, officials said.

“In documenting the violations and abuses of the past, we hope to galvanize national and international efforts to protect and bring justice to the victims of these crimes,” said Parfait Onanga-Anyanga, the U.N. special representative for the country.

The International Criminal Court is already examining abuses dating back to 2003 in Central African Republic. While the U.N. report does not characterize the worst sectarian violence as genocide, it does “identify facts which may warrant further investigation to determine whether the elements of the crime may have been met.”

Central African Republic exploded into violence in late 2013 after mostly Muslim rebels from the Seleka coalition terrorized civilians in the capital until the Seleka leader stepped down from power. A mainly Christian militia that arose in opposition to the rebels then carried out horrific violence against Muslim civilians in retaliation, even though few of them supported Seleka in the first place.

At one point, Muslims were stoned to death with rocks by mobs in the street, at times decapitated and mutilated. Those fleeing for their lives in truck convoys to the country’s north and beyond to Chad were slain by mobs in many cases.

Violence ebbed with the installation of a civilian transitional government and with the arrival of U.N. peacekeepers who replaced a regional force. The country held fairly peaceful national elections in 2016, though this year has seen an explosion of sectarian conflict in areas previously untouched by such tensions such as the southeast.

The fragile peace is in many ways maintained by separation. Many towns no longer have Muslim communities after people fled and never returned. Mosques have been destroyed. More than 500,000 people remain internally displaced while others remain in neighboring Chad, Cameroon and Congo, officials said.

While Tuesday’s report urges justice to be done, it also offers a grim view of the challenges: Armed groups still control more than half the country. Most courts were looted and destroyed during the rampant violence by armed groups.

“The number of police personnel, their equitable deployment across the country and the resources available to them, considering the country’s vast geography, are wanting,” the report says. “Magistrates appointed to the courts in many of the provinces and other judiciary personnel often choose to remain in Bangui because of insecurity and a lack of amenities for their work and welfare. Virtually all the country’s lawyers are based in Bangui.”

Any criminal proceedings must include those equipped to work with sexual violence survivors, the report says. More than 650 victims were reported between December 2013 and July 2014 alone. In one case, a single victim was raped by up to 20 perpetrators, the report says.

It references the recent case of former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre as one possible example. Habre was convicted last year of crimes against humanity in a special court set up Senegal. The charges included rape and forced sexual slavery carried out by subordinates under the legal principle of “command responsibility.”

Tuesday’s report says the violence committed by the mostly Muslim Seleka rebels could constitute crimes against humanity, along with the retaliatory violence carried out by the mostly Christian anti-Balaka against Muslim civilians.

A “campaign of killings and persecution” by government soldiers against civilians in the north-central and northwest regions between 2006 and 2009 also could constitute crimes against humanity, it says.

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