News in Brief 22 September 2016 (AM)

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Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

Zeid: DRC violence could be a precursor to "large-scale crisis"

Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which has left dozens of civilians dead is a sign that "a large-scale crisis" could soon envelop the country.

That warning comes from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein who's called for the authorities to pull back from what he called their "extremely confrontational position" with protesters, amid uncertainty about presidential elections.

Issuing his appeal on Thursday, the human rights chief said that some civilians were killed by gunshots to the head or chest at the start of the week in the capital, Kinshasa.

Zeid was also concerned about reported official involvement in attacks on the headquarters of six opposition political parties: a "clear assault against democracy and fundamental human rights", he said.

The rights chief also condemned attacks against the headquarters of the ruling party, while calling for accountability for the victims and other violations.

Azerbaijan authorities should "build bridges" with civil society, urges rights expert

The government of Azerbaijan has been urged to "build bridges" with peaceful protesters by a UN independent rights expert, who has described the country's attitude to civil society organisations as "punitive".

Speaking at the end of his first visit to the country, Michael Forst said that the situation there for human rights defenders is the worst it's been since the country declared independence in 1991.

Mr Forst, who's the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said that dozens of non-government organisations, their leaders, employees and families have had their assets seized and faced travel bans, tax penalties and imprisonment.

At least 20 journalists and bloggers have also been sanctioned for expressing views that are critical of the authorities, Mr Forst noted, before adding that he supported government efforts to review the current legislation to bring Azerbaijan in line with international standards.

Humanitarians readying for exodus from Iraq's Mosul amid funding gaps

Ten million Iraqis require some form of aid relief, but a humanitarian appeal for the country is only 54 per cent funded, the United Nations has warned.

Furthermore, more than half of the projects listed in the appeal have been forced to close or never got off the ground.

Meanwhile, humanitarians are  bracing to assist as many as one million Iraqis who could flee the city of Mosul as a result of military operations against the terrorist group, ISIL.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the country, Lise Grande, said that civilians trying to escape could encounter "terrifying" conditions.

She explained that they could be at risk from crossfire and bombardment, or they might even be used as human shields.

Ms Grande urged parties to the conflict to uphold their international obligations to protect civilians and ensure that they have access to assistance.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 2'59"

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