News in Brief 10 March 2017 (AM) – Geneva

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Residents of Silvan, a city in Diyarbakir Province, southeastern Turkey, walk past their bullet-riddled homes. Photo: IRIN/Jodi Hilton

Mass destruction and killings linked to Turkey security operation

Details have been released of widespread destruction and death in Turkey during Government security operations against Kurdish separatists.

In its first report on violence in Turkey, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Friday that heavy weaponry destroyed housing in the south-east between July 2015 and December last year.

Satellite imagery showed that more than 30 towns and neighbourhoods were hit, with men, women and children killed.

Well over 350,000 people were also displaced – mostly of Kurdish origin.

OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville described details of attacks in the town of Cizre:

"The report describes how witnesses and family members of victims painted an apocalyptic picture of the wholesale destruction of neighbourhoods where, in early 2016, up to 189 men, women and children were trapped for weeks on end in basements without water, food, medical attention and power, before being killed by fire that had apparently been caused by shelling."

The UN human rights office report also cites information from the government indicating that militants linked to the PKK Kurdistan Workers Party had attacked Turkish security forces.

In a statement, UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein noted the "complex challenges" Turkey has faced amid last July's attempted coup and several terror attacks.

But he expressed particular concern that no credible investigation has been conducted into the violence in the south-east and that no-one had been arrested following hundreds of alleged unlawful killings.

Migrants dominate debate at Human Rights Council

The number of migrants is likely to grow and more nations need to appreciate the positive contribution they make to communities, the Human Rights Council heard on Friday.

During a debate on the issue in Geneva, many speakers defended the 244 million individuals who have left their homes seeking shelter or a better life.

One of them was William Lacy Swing, head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM):

"Too many migrants are still dying on the migratory route. We lost 5,000 last year in the Mediterranean alone, we don't have a clue as to how many more died in the Mediterranean, we haven't found their bodies, or how many died in the Sahara desert. We're also dealing with the very negative public discourse in which we both endanger migrants and deny the contribution that they have starkly made to all of our economies and societies."

Mexico's Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Jorge Lomonaco, also took part in the debate.

He said that every nation had a right to protect its borders, but no-one should forget that migrants are human beings who have rights.

The ambassador also said that the world should expect to see more migrants in the future, the result of conflict, poverty, inequality and climate change.

"Catastrophic" chemical disaster fears in Ukraine

Unchecked armed conflict in Ukraine could result in "catastrophic chemical disaster" in the east of the country, a UN human rights expert has warned.

Baskut Tuncak, the Special Rapporteur on human rights and hazardous substances and wastes, raised the alarm on Friday and called for an end to the fighting.

He noted that "battles are now being fought in cities, close to industrial centres", as government troops clash with separatist militia – a conflict dating back to 2014.

Factories are "increasingly…at risk of being hit" and "the consequences for anyone living close-by would be severe", Mr Tuncak added.

Last month, shelling hit a building containing chlorine gas.

While there was no damage to storage containers, if there had been, anyone within 200 metres could have died, the Special Rapporteur said.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 3'51"

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