News in Brief 24 May 2016 (AM) – Geneva

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The UN Human Rights Office headed by High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has warned of “swiftly escalating” violence in Syria. Photo: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

New Syria violence may be war crime, warns UN rights office

A series of suicide and car bombings in Syria which reportedly left scores of civilians dead has been condemned by the UN Human Rights Office, OHCHR.

The coastal cities of Jableh and Tartous were targeted in Monday's destruction which OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville said was evidence of "swiftly escalating violence across the country".

He reiterated the UN's call for those responsible for the attacks to go before the International Criminal Court as they may constitute war crimes.

"We've received reports of scores of people being killed, government sources citing 78 casualties and other estimates rising as high as 145. Most of those killed or injured are believed to be civilians and the timing and choice of locations suggest the attacks were deliberately intended to inflict the maximum number of civilian casualties."

A total of seven explosions rocked the two cities, targeting a hospital, residential areas and bus shelters.

The UN Human Rights Office is investigating the attacks in the west of the country, as well as separate reports of attacks on internally displaced people later the same day.

The extremist group ISIL has claimed responsibility for the violence, OHCHR said.

Refugees in Greece "must have access to asylum process"

The removal of migrants and refugees from a makeshift camp in Greece must be done voluntarily, and they must be able to claim asylum, the UN has said.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, more than 800 people have already been taken from Idomeni – which is on the border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – to an official processing centre.

An estimated 8,000 people are believed to have made Idomeni their temporary home amid resistance from other European countries to let them travel north.

They are mainly from Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.

UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards said that the question of how individuals are moved is crucial:

"UNHCR opposes use of force in transfer of persons of concern from one place to another. It's important that organised movements are voluntary, non-discriminatory and based on well-informed choices by the individuals. At the moment we do have further staff on the way there this morning but as I understand it the situation is proceeding calmly."

Edwards said it was understood that Greece would begin hearing the Idomeni asylum-seekers' claims "fairly soon", adding that there have been concerns about the country's capacity to do this in the past.

Russia and China sign up to Emergency Medical Response plan

A bid to speed up effective international emergency medical relief has been given a boost by Russia and China.

The two countries are the first to see their Emergency Medical Teams pass a strict accreditation process by the World Health Organization (WHO) – a guarantee that they can supply a high level of clinical care to disaster-affected populations and governments.

The initiative was inspired by the global community's response to the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

Here's Dr Ian Norton from WHO. He leads the UN agency's work on Emergency Medical Teams:

"Historically, teams self-responded, particularly in Haiti, we saw hundreds of teams descend on Haiti with the very best intention to treat those affected by the earthquake in Haiti. Unfortunately in healthcare, good intentions aren't enough. Some arrived without the right training, the right equipment and supplies and became almost more of a burden than a help."

More than 65 teams from 25 countries are now working towards WHO accreditation and that number is expected to rise to 200.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 3'29"


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