News in Brief 31 January (AM)

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A WFP air drop. File Photo: WFP

Airdrops to besieged Syrian city of Deir-ez-Zour resume: WFP

Life-saving aid deliveries have restarted to the besieged Syrian city of Deir ez Zour, the World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday.

Airdrops had to be halted more than two weeks ago amid renewed clashes between Government forces and ISIL extremists, who control the city.

The World Food Programme's Bettina Luescher said that a new location to deliver aid had been found near the eastern city where its partners from the Syrian Arab Red Crescent could collect the aid safely.

"There was real danger to the volunteers on the ground, so we had to halt them for a while.  They have come up with a new, safer location for the drop zone that is again safe for volunteers to work on the ground, collect the food and the other aid supplies."

Some 100,000 people live in Deir-Ez-Zour who have to date received nearly 180 air drops organized by WFP.

Mediterranean deaths pass 250 in first month of 2017

More than 250 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe so far this year, UN migration experts have announced.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the figure includes two brothers from Côte d'Ivoire, aged five and eight, who died in a dinghy en route to Italy from Libya at the weekend.

IOM spokesperson Joel Millman has more:

"They were travelling with two older sisters aged 10 and 14, so four children unaccompanied as we understand it. They were trying to reach their father who is living in France right now. Their remains were found on a boat rescued on the Mediterranean; the authorities are trying to learn whether or not they died of asphyxiation or hypothermia. That was just two of seven cases that I'm aware of in the last five days."

To date in 2017 there has been only one reported death off the coast of Greece.

This is in comparison with 2016, when IOM noted 272 deaths on the stretch of water between Turkey and Greece.

"Brexit" brings risk of toxic pollution increase says UN expert

The decision by the United Kingdom (UK) to leave the European Union (EU) could lower human rights protections when it comes to the impacts of toxic pollution.

That's the view of UN Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes, Baskut Tuncak, who said last year's "Brexit" vote would mean that the UK would no longer be subject to EU rules on pollution.

"The forthcoming plan for "Brexit" should ensure that it does not open a Pandora's Box, freeing the way for deregulation" he said, at the end of his first visit to the UK to identify challenges to safe management of dangerous waste.

Hazardous air pollution causes an estimated 30-40,000 premature deaths each year, said the UN independent expert, adding that "children, women of reproductive age, the elderly and those in poor health" were most at risk.

Turkey ordered to release UN war crimes panel judge

Turkey is being ordered to release a judge assigned to serve on a UN war crimes panel so that he can go back to work.

Judge Aydin Sefa Akay was reportedly arrested in the aftermath of the failed coup in Turkey last July.

The UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals said in a statement on Tuesday that the Turkish government must release him by February 14 so he can "resume his judicial functions".

The international court tracks and tries the remaining fugitives from the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda accused of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Turkish judge is involved in the appeal case of a former Rwandan minister sentenced to 30 years for genocide offences.

Judges of the court enjoy diplomatic immunity under international law and the UN Secretary-General has previously requested the immediate release of Judge Akay.

The Mechanism's President said that just replacing the judge in the trial would "have a chilling effect on the administration of justice".

Turkey has so far given no response to requests for the judge's release.

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 3’37″

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