News in Brief 21 October 2016 (AM) – Geneva

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High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called for action against what he called “pervasive violations of international law”. Photo: UN Photo

Spotlight on Aleppo as UN Human Rights Council re-opens for special session

A special session of the UN Human Rights Council has got under way to highlight the plight of those affected by conflict in Syria's Aleppo.

At the start of the meeting in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein described the more than five-year-long war between Syrian government forces and non-state actors as the "defining human rights crisis of our era".

And in a message to Member States, Zeid called for all parties to be held accountable for rights abuses in the fighting, which has killed some 300,000 civilians and displaced well over half of Syria's population.

"The ancient city of Aleppo, a place of millennial civility and beauty is today a slaughterhouse of pain, a gruesome locus of pain and fear where the lifeless bodies of children are trapped under streets or rubble and pregnant women deliberately bombed. As we speak, hundreds of thousands of people are trapped in 17 other besieged locations and face life-threatening shortages of food, medicines and basic supplies."

Meanwhile, UN humanitarian coordinating agency OCHA said that it had been unable to begin the evacuation of seriously sick and wounded people from eastern Aleppo, as it had hoped to do from Friday.

DRC forces "used excessive and lethal rights violations" to end demonstrations

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, government forces used excessive and lethal force to quell demonstrations which left 53 people dead last month, the UN has said.

According to an initial UN investigation, "at least" 48 people in the capital Kinshasa were killed "by state agents" as protesters gathered to oppose delays to the presidential election.

The victims included seven women and two children, one as young as five.

A "vast majority" of all of those who died were shot, the probe's authors indicated.

Others died after being set alight, stabbed, beaten or attacked with machetes.

During the demonstrations, four police officers were also killed; three were beaten to death and one was burned alive.

In response to the report, the UN has called on the Congolese authorities to conduct independent, credible and impartial investigations.

Use of human shields in Mosul "shows need for Iraqi army caution"

The Iraqi army has been urged to exercise caution by the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), following reports that ISIL extremists are using civilians as human shields in and around the city of Mosul.

The appeal comes as the Iraqi army advances on the terrorist stronghold in the north of the country, where the UN has received indications that ISIL is keeping civilians and fighters together.

Spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani from the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) has more details:

"Among the reports that we've received are that ISIL forced some 200 families out of Samalia village to walk to Mosul on 17 October. Also on the same day, 350 families fled Najafia village towards Mosul, highlighting ISIL's apparent policy of preventing civilians from escaping to areas controlled by Iraqi security forces. We're also examining reports that at least 40 civilians were shot dead by ISIL in one of the villages outside Mosul."

With the military offensive in its first week, UN Refugee Agency UNHCR has reported that nearly 4,000 people have so far been displaced.

They've all been taken to a reception centre in the village of Al-Hood, about 30 kilometres south of Mosul.

So far, only 48 per cent of the near US$ 200 million that UNHCR needs for Mosul has been provided.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 3’38″







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