News in Brief 13 April 2017 (PM)

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Ahmet Üzümcü. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Use of chemical weapons in Khan Shaykhun "credible allegation"

The use of chemical weapons during an attack on Khan Shaykhun in Syria on 4 April is a "credible allegation," the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Thursday.

An Executive Council meeting of the chemical weapons watchdog, in the Netherlands, heard that the on-going OPCW Fact-Finding Mission had collected samples from the site of the attack and hoped to complete its work "within the next two to three weeks."

The attack, which if verified amounts to a war crime, killed more than 80, according to media reports, and sickened dozens more.

The OPCW Director-General, former Turkish Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, said "our experts are fully aware of the significance of the task they are expected to fulfil."

He added that he was confident they would act in a "professional and impartial manner" using all technical means available.

He called again for States Parties to share any relevant information without delay.

Gay men detained in Russia "must be immediately released" UN experts

Men who are being detained in the Russian Republic of Chechnya simply for being perceived to be gay, must be immediately released, said a group of UN human rights experts on Thursday.

Reports have been emerging since last month of abductions of men believed to be gay or bisexual, carried out by local militia and security forces.

The men are reported to have suffered arbitrary detention, violence, torture and other ill-treatment.

There are even reports of so-called "honour killings" having being carried out involving gay men.

"These are acts of persecution on an unprecedented scale in the region, and constitute serious violations of the obligations of the Russian Federation, under human rights law," the experts said.

They called on the authorities to immediately release anyone being unlawfully detained in Chechnya on the basis or their perceived or actual sexual orientation.

New global standard adopted to ensure safety of trade in plants and seeds

The international body overseeing plant health had taken a "big step forward" with the adoption of a new global standard to ensure that the international trade in plants and seeds becomes safer.

The International Plant Protection Convention's governing body – overseen by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – adopted the new standard on Thursday.

More details from UN Spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric.

"In this globalized world, food and agricultural products are continuously on the move, with ships ferrying every year more than 500 million large steel containers filled with all kinds of cargo. The standard adopted today in the Republic of Korea by the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures aims to ensure that all shipments – big and small – are free from bugs and diseases, and to address the threat of pest transmission posed by seeds."

There is a greater risk that any pests carried in seeds could establish themselves after being planted and spread throughout any area.

Matthew Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 2’36″

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