News in Brief 19 August 2016 (PM)

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Children prepare a fire for cooking in Aleppo city, Syria. As of 2 August 2016, children are again facing terrible threats from new intense attacks and fighting in the western parts of the city. Photo: UNICEF/Khuder Al-Issa

Russia agrees to UN-backed 48-hour humanitarian pause in Aleppo

Russia has agreed to support a UN proposal for a 48-hour humanitarian pause in the Syrian city of Aleppo, according to a statement released by its Ministry of Defense.

Staffan de Mistura, the special envoy for Syria, welcomed the news and confirmed that a humanitarian team was getting ready to respond to the challenge.

Russia and the US are co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group.

The UN, the Arab League, the European Union and 16 countries are also part of this working group.

Here's the UN deputy spokesperson, Farhan Haq:

"The United Nations counts on the Russian Federation to deliver their part, regarding, in particular, the adherence of the Syrian armed forces to the pause, once it comes into effect. The United Nations further counts on all those with access to or influence on the armed opposition, in particular the United States, as co-chair of the International Syria Support Group, as well as other relevant Support Group members, to ensure that the armed opposition also respects the 48-hour humanitarian pause."

Meanwhile, up to 36 people in need of medical treatment, including children, have been evacuated from the besieged towns of Fouah and Madaya.

De Mistura called it a "positive step," but warned there were areas that remained besieged by parties to the conflict, like Darayya, where food and medical aid were urgently needed.

Turkey urged to uphold human rights despite state of emergency

Turkey is being urged by UN human rights experts to uphold its obligations under international human rights law despite the attempted mid-July coup.

The Government declared a state of emergency in the aftermath.

Detentions and purges in the education, media, military and justice sectors have spiked since then.

Allegations of torture and poor detention conditions have also risen.

UN human rights experts have voiced their concern about the use of emergency measures to target dissent and criticism.

Their call comes as Turkey's Article 4 enters into effect, which allows the country to temporarily relax some obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a human rights treaty.

"The invocation of Article 4 is lawful only if there is a threat to the life of the nation, a condition that arguably is not met in this case," the experts noted.

But even in situations that meet this high threshold, they underscored, Article 4 establishes limits to how much a State may deviate from its obligations under the Covenant.

Ethiopia agrees to investigate human rights violations in Oromia and Amhara

Ethiopia has agreed to launch an independent investigation into allegations of "serious" human rights violations taking place in two regions of the country, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) has confirmed.

The unrest in the Oromia and Amhara regions started in November 2015.

However, according to media reports, scores of people were shot dead in August during a crackdown against anti-government protests.

A probe would establish whether the use of excessive force occurred, with the aim of bringing to justice the perpetrators of any violations.

The situation is very tense in parts of the Oromia and Amhara regions where a large security presence has reportedly been deployed, OHCHR said.

There are also reports of ongoing arbitrary arrests, intimidation and harassment of people.

The Government of Ethiopia is being urged to ensure that the investigation is indeed "independent, transparent, thorough and effective".

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, has reached out to the authorities asking them to grant access to independent observers in the affected areas.

Their role would be to assess the situation in the two regions following "extremely alarming" reports of human rights violations that emerged earlier in August.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 3’51″

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