Category Archives: U.N

UN identifies South Sudan’s mass rapists, killers and torturers

UN photo 1Violence continues despite South Sudan’s main warring parties signing a peace deal last September [File: Andreea Campeanu/Reuters]

A United Nations report says its investigators have identified alleged perpetrators of pervasive rape, killings and torture in South Sudan’s civil war – violence they believe was driven by oil revenues.

The UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan on Wednesday said the army, national security, military intelligence, rebel forces and affiliated armed groups committed serious human rights breaches.

The UN body had drawn up a confidential list of suspects including army and opposition commanders, two state governors and a county commissioner.

Its 212-page report detailed people being held for years and tortured in secret, vermin-ridden detention centres, children being run down by tanks, rape of girls as young as seven, and babies being drowned, starved or smashed against trees.

In some stricken areas, 65 percent of women and 36 percent of men may have been sexually abused, according to the report.

Peace deal

Although South Sudan’s main warring parties signed a peace deal in September, widespread violence, especially rape, has continued.

Andrew Clapham, a member of the three-person commission, said it was outraged by reports of further fighting between government forces and the rebel National Salvation Front, which was not part of the peace agreement, in the Yei River area.

“There are thousands of civilians who have been forcibly displaced following a scorched-earth policy in which the parties to the conflict are attacking the villages, torching the homes, killing civilians and raping women and girls,” Clapham said.

The United States, Britain and Norway jointly expressed their alarm at the reports of escalating violence in Yei.

“These military actions, and the trading of blame, must stop,” they said in a joint statement.

Clapham said that more than 5,000 refugees had reached neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and up to 20,000 people were expected to be displaced by the latest fighting.

Oil and conflict

The report cited a close connection between oil and the conflict.

A law ensuring that South Sudan’s oil-producing regions and communities received two and three percent of its oil revenue respectively had triggered a redrawing of provincial boundaries and ethnic conflict.

“We feel the national security services are very much involved in the siphoning off of the oil money,” said Clapham.

The Human Rights Council should get to the bottom of the sums involved and where the money was going, he told reporters, noting that health and education spending was “minuscule”.

“If you are involved in oil extraction in that area and you are asked to assist one side or the other, you could be accused of complicity in war crimes. There are Council members that we think have a responsibility to look more carefully at this.”

At war since 2013, South Sudan has seen horrific levels of sexual violence.

The South Sudan commission, set up by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016, is tasked with collecting evidence that could be used to prosecute individuals for major atrocities in the conflict.

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/identifies-south-sudan-mass-rapists-killers-torturers-190220160817331.html

UN raises $2.6bn in donations for Yemen humanitarian aid

UN photoThe UN raised $2.6 billion for Yemen, calling it the ‘world’s worst humanitarian crisis’ [Khaled Abdullah/Reuters]

by Barbara Bibbo
A UN pledging conference for Yemen has raised about $2.6bn of the $4bn needed to address the humanitarian crisis in the country, where about 80,000 children below the age of five have already died of hunger, UN officials said on Tuesday.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were the main donors, pledging $500m each and contributing to a 30-percent increase of total pledges from last year.

But the two Gulf countries, backed by the United States and the United Kingdom, are also active participants in the ongoing conflict, which has caused what the UN describes as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis”.

Since 2015, a Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out air strikes against the Houthi rebels in Yemen to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The Houthis have seized control of the capital Sanaa, the Hodeidah port and most of the northeastern part of the country.

The war has caused a humanitarian emergency of catastrophic proportion, according to the UN, especially due to the almost total disregard for international humanitarian law by both the parties.

Nevertheless, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday praised the Gulf countries’ contributions and abstained from any criticism of their role, despite insistent requests from the media to clarify the contradiction in their position as donors as well as parties in the conflict.

“This is a pledging conference and any contribution is welcome despite a country’s role in the war,” he said.

Asked to comment on the ongoing UN investigations for war crimes allegedly committed by all parties in the conflict, Guterres said they will continue as expected.

Humanitarian catastrophe

About 24 million people, 80 percent of the population, need humanitarian aid and protection, UN officials said at the conference.

About 20 million people cannot feed themselves reliably, out of which about 10 million Yemenis are just one step away from famine, according to UN figures.

Since last year, due to the continued fighting and a collapsing economy, an additional two million people fell into the humanitarian crisis.

The worst affected by the conflict are the children. About 80,000 children below the age of five have already died of starvation, according to a report quoted by Guterres.

Eight children a day are being killed as they go to school or play outdoors and from other conflict related causes, according to UNICEF.

About 360,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition with life threatening consequences.

According to Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, every ten minutes in Yemen a child is dying of a preventable disease because of the lack of essential health services. More than two million children not being able to go to school.

“Today Yemen is the worst place on earth for a child,” Cappelaere told Al Jazeera. “I invite the parties to think of their own children when they sit at the negotiating table next time.”

Stockholm Agreement

Addressing the media on Monday, Guterres admitted that the humanitarian response cannot suffice to address the Yemeni crisis without the parties’ serious engagement in the peace negotiations.

“There cannot be a humanitarian solution to humanitarian problems,” he said.

The UN chief admitted that the implementation of the agreement reached between the Yemeni Government and the Houthis in December was meeting “obstacles”.

The UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement signed in December 2018 and Security Council resolution 2451 endorsing that agreement, called for a ceasefire in the Hodeidah governorate and a mechanism for exchanging prisoners amongst other confidence building measures.

However, little progress has been achieved since the parties met in Sweden with the each repeatedly accusing each other of not abiding by the agreement.

While violence in Hodeidah has diminished, the conflict continues or has escalated in some areas like Hajjah, while the humanitarian crisis remains catastrophic.

Out of 10 million on the verge of famine, nearly 240,000 of those people are right now facing catastrophic levels of hunger.

Almost 20 million people lack access to adequate healthcare, and nearly 18 million don’t have enough clean water or access to adequate sanitation.

More than three million people – including two million children – are acutely malnourished.

About 3.3 million remain displaced from their homes, including 685,000 who have fled fighting along the west coast since June 2018.

Amidst the conflict the economy continues to unravel. The exchange rate is about 600 Yemeni Rial to a US dollar – from about 400, which was the level it recovered to following substantial injections of foreign exchange into the Central Bank by Saudi Arabia in late 2018.

As the rate falls, the price of food for ordinary people rises.

Response Plan

The Humanitarian Response Plan for 2019 requires about $4bn to reach 15 million across the country.

The pledges made in Geneva will go towards increasing the number of people reached with emergency food aid to 12 million every month, from the 10 million of December last year, amongst other essential health and assistance plans.

According to Mark Lowcock, under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, donations made last year were divided amongst 200 agencies that reached people in all of Yemen’s 333 governorates.

But the UN operations also met with delays and blockades due to restrictions imposed on humanitarian workers and convoys by both parties in the conflict.

In particular, the blockade of the Hodeidah port which alone normally handles 70 percent of food imports entering Yemen and a lifeline for the entire population, has had disastrous consequences so far.

Access to mills

Guterres on Tuesday also announced the UN had regained access to a stocking facility that can potentially feed some 3.7 million people for up to one month.

“We have a good news, we have access to the Red Sea Mills again,” said Guterres.

That was later confirmed by Herve Verhoosel, World Food Programme senior spokesperson.

“I can confirm that the WFP assessment team has gained access today to the Red Sea Mills for the first time since September 2018 when they were cut off by fighting in the area,” said Verhoosel.

At that time there were 51,000 metric tons of wheat in storage at the mills, which is enough to feed 3.7 million people for one month, and represents a quarter of WFP’s wheat flour milling capacity in the country.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/raises-26bn-donations-yemen-humanitarian-aid-190226161139569.html

UN: Boko Haram threat displaces 30,000 from Nigeria’s Rann town

boko haram photo

More than 30,000 people fled the Nigerian town of Rann over the weekend amid fears of renewed attacks by the Boko Haram armed group, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday the town’s population “seems to be panicking and they are on the run as a pre-emptive measure to save their lives.”

Rann, near the border with Cameroon in northern Borno state, already saw an exodus of about 9,000 people earlier this month to Cameroon after a Boko Haram attack on January 14 killed 14 people.

Baloch said Cameroon sent back the 9,000 refugees and initially deployed troops that are part of a multinational taskforce to protect the town.

“It was a bit peaceful, but as far as we understand now, that multinational taskforce has left,” he said.

Refugees told aid workers that Boko Haram fighters had “promised to return to Rann”, he said, explaining the panic.

Baloch said UNHCR was reiterating its call to Cameroonian authorities “to keep the borders open, as we see thousands fleeing every day”.

Tough living conditions

Baloch said a recent upsurge in violence in northeastern Nigeria had driven more than 80,000 civilians to seek refuge in already crowded camps or in towns in Borno state, “where they are surviving in tough living conditions”.

Rann, he said, had already been housing about 80,000 displaced people.

“The escalation in the conflict has thwarted people’s intention of returning to their homes,” he said, adding some refugees who attempted to return home from Cameroon had been displaced multiple times inside Nigeria or forced to become refugees again in Cameroon.

“The hostilities have strained humanitarian operations there and forced aid workers to pull out from some locations,” he said.

Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency, told reporters that 260 aid workers were withdrawn from three locations in Borno state since early December.

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/01/boko-haram-threat-displaces-30000-nigeria-rann-town-190129112148918.html

Migration Compact adopted following Pope’s call to action

Compact photo                                 Pope at launch of Share the Journey

Source: CAFOD

More than 160 countries have agreed the UN Global Compact on Migration at a conference in Morocco following calls from CAFOD supporters and thousands of Catholics worldwide.

The migration pact follows the adoption of the Global Compact on Refugees by the United Nations General Assembly earlier in 2018. The two agreements set out how governments will work together to help people on the move, particularly those who have been forced from their homes by persecution or poverty.

Catholics around the world have campaigned for governments to agree the compacts as part of a ‘Share the Journey’ campaign launched by Pope Francis in 2017, with CAFOD supporters in England and Wales walking more than 100,000 miles in solidarity with displaced people.

What are the global compacts?

The global compacts on migrants and refugees are the result of negotiations which started following a UN agreement in 2016 called the ‘New York Declaration’. This set out a process for countries to cooperate in dealing with the unprecedented number of people globally who were migrating because of war, the changing climate or in search of a better life.

Both agreements are seen as a step forward because they recognise that many migrants and refugees face common challenges and vulnerabilities.

The migration compact sets out how to assist people at all the stages of their journey – ensuring they can leave their homes without unnecessary danger, reducing the risk of exploitation and trafficking, and helping them to access basic services such as healthcare and education when they arrive in new countries.

The refugee compact seeks to make sure that countries which receive the largest number of refugees are given support. This is something the Holy Father has called for, as the majority of displaced people are living in countries which suffer from high levels of poverty themselves.

The agreement states the need to tackle the reasons why people are forced from their homes, including disasters resulting from climate change and damage to the environment.

The compact also notes that faith groups have an important role to play in helping refugees, including the role that the Church and other religious organisations play in preventing conflict and helping to build peace.

Global Compacts are a ‘testament to Pope’s leadership’

Graham Gordon, Head of Policy at CAFOD, said that the adoption of the agreements showed that “governments have responded to calls from their citizens” to support displaced people, noting that “tens of thousands of Catholics have walked over 100,000 miles in solidarity with people on the move.”

“Pope Francis has said that our response to the needs of migrants will be a ‘test of our humanity’, so the fact that the vast majority of states are joining the Global Compact is a positive sign.

“It’s in everyone’s interests that countries work together to support at every stage of their journey those who have left their homes in search of a better life. This is especially important if we are to prevent people from falling into the hands of traffickers and criminal gangs.”

The Holy See, under the Pope’s supervision, published guidance for governments ahead of the talks which led to the global compacts. These ‘action points’ were based on the support the Catholic Church is giving to refugees and migrants worldwide, including in countries such as Colombia, Nigeria and Lebanon.

Graham Gordon said: “The Global Compact and its sister document on refugees have been a testament to the leadership shown by the Pope and the Church during negotiations. Now we need to ensure that governments put their words into action and implement their provisions.”
https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/36197