News in Brief 24 February 2017 (AM) – Geneva

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UN Human Rights Office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani. Photo: UN Photo

Israeli soldier's sentence for shooting "excessively lenient": UN

The punishment handed down to an Israeli soldier found guilty of shooting dead a wounded Palestinian is "excessively lenient", the UN Human Rights Office said on Friday.

The statement by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is in reference to the 18-month prison term given to Sergeant Elor Azaria this week.

The army medic killed 21-year-old Abdul Fatah al-Sharif in Hebron last March while he was lying on the ground, unarmed and wounded, after attacking an Israeli soldier.

Ravina Shamdasani is a spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office:

"This is longstanding issue with Israel and we've been in touch with the Israeli authorities multiple times over the years. This is a chronic culture of impunity that we're talking about, this is not one individual case. In this case there actually was a prosecution and a conviction, which is more than we've seen in the other cases. However, for a sentence of 18 months to be handed down for such a serious human rights violation is unacceptable."

Ms Shamdasani said that the sentence was in contrast to three-year sentences handed out to Palestinian children for throwing stones at cars.

Mediterranean migrant deaths soar amid surge in crossings

A surge in the number of migrants arriving in Italy after crossing the Mediterranean Sea has been accompanied by a spike in the number of fatalities, the UN has warned.

So far this year, more than 320 men, women and children have lost their lives on the perilous journey from the North African coast; that's three times more than in 2016.

In total, well over 10,000 people have reached Italy in January and February – a 25 per cent increase in a year.

Joel Millman from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told journalists in Geneva that people traffickers now commonly remove the engines from boats before abandoning those on board.

"We are told that the passengers are promised that a rescue ship is coming, that the authorities know of their distress and that they will be picked out of the water. And of course that has happened in the last week, a couple of thousands that we know of, but there's also over 100 deaths in the last week."

There have been several deadly incidents in recent days on the central Mediterranean Sea route.

In one tragedy, at least 80 people are known to have died when a boat foundered off the Libyan coast on Sunday.

Myanmar violations require an international probe: UN's Zeid

The authorities in Myanmar should heed calls to support an international investigation into alleged grave human rights violations in the north of the country.

That's the view of the UN Human Rights Office, OHCHR.

It says that the country's announcement that it is to conduct internal inquiries into the reported killings of minority Rohingya communities by security forces "do not meet the standards of credibility" that are required.

Here's OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani:

"The new investigations that have begun, I believe one of them is a police investigation so it's the police investigating themselves. Which clearly you do not have to be an international human rights lawyer to understand that this does not meet standards of credibility and independence."

Reports of violence against Rohingya Muslims emerged earlier this year in which government forces are alleged to have raped and killed women and children following attacks on border guards on Myanmar's border with Bangladesh.

To date, the UN Human Rights Office does not have access to Rakhine state where the violations are reported.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 3’21″

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