News in Brief 14 April 2016 (PM)

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Ravina Shamsadani, Spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. UN File Photo

Executions in Iran "should stop" for drug crimes

Iran should halt executions to give lawmakers time to debate a new bill to remove the death penalty for drug crimes, the UN's human rights chief has said.

The appeal, by Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, follows the hanging last weekend of five men; three for narcotics trafficking and two for murder.

Ravina Shamdasani, from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, said there's increasing concern in Iran about the number of juveniles awaiting execution.

"There are varying estimates about how many people who committed offences when they were juveniles who are on death row, and it is understood that the official figures don’t really reflect the reality as well. There are easily more than 100 juveniles awaiting execution in Iran."

At least 966 people were executed in the country in 2015, the highest rate in more than two decades.

Both Israel and Palestine jeopardize two-state solution

The two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is being threatened by actions on the ground from both sides.

That's according to a report from the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO), Nikolay Mladenov.

The report says that Israel has continued "aggressive settlement activities" and strengthened its military presence in the West Bank, while Palestinian factions have been unable to reach consensus on achieving "genuine unity on the basis of non-violence and democracy."

The UNSCO report also highlights the humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory, warning that "some 1.1 million people in the West Bank and 1.3 million in Gaza, need some form of humanitarian assistance in 2016."

Spread of plant diseases endangering global wheat production

The ongoing spread of wheat rusts, a group of plant diseases that affect wheat and other crops, is posing a threat in the world’s major production areas, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The UN agency said it's expanding its collaboration with international partners to provide training on surveillance, resistance and management of the disease.

Wheat rusts have the capacity to decimate a healthy crop.

They spread rapidly over large distances by wind, and can wreak havoc on crops if not tackled properly when first detected.

The major wheat-growing regions under threat are in Central Asia and the Middle East.

Ana Carmo, United Nations

Duration: 2’06″

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