News in brief 25 April – Geneva (AM)

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UN peacekeepers on patrol in conflict-affected areas near Pajok in Eastern Equatoria State in South Sudan. Photo: UNMISS

Targeted killings based on ethnicity condemned in South Sudan

Concerns are growing over the ethnic nature of recent attacks on civilians in several South Sudanese towns amid reports of targeted killings and sexual violence.

The world's youngest country has been split by years of civil war between SPLA forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and former Vice-President Riek Machar.

On Tuesday, the UN human rights office, OHCHR said that there had been "significant loss of civilian lives" in different part of the country, including Pajok in Eastern Equatoria and Wau in Western Bahr el-Ghazal.

Here's OHCHR's Ravina Shamdasani on the violence in Pajok:

"Multiple testimonies indicate that SPLA soldiers killed civilians who were unable to flee and targeted young boys and men on the basis of their ethnicity. The Human Rights Division also received reports of three incidents of sexual violence involving six women. Local authorities, including the SPLA, said the men suspected of involvement in one of the incidents had been arrested and were detained by the army. But the authorities have denied allegations of mass atrocities against civilians."

In Wau, Ms Shadasani said that 28 civilians were killed two weeks ago after an ambush on government troops.

Witnesses said that SPLA and armed Dinka men went house-to-house, questioning residents about their ethnicity, prior to shooting them.

More than 20,000 people fled the latest attacks, according to OHCHR, which warned that widespread impunity in South Sudan for such abuses "can only encourage further violence".

World Malaria Day 2017: millions of bednets reach Chad as rainy season looms

Some 13 million people in Chad are set to receive special anti-malarial bednets as part of a massive distribution campaign linked to World Malaria Day 2017.

The initiative by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Global Fund to fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, is aimed at the most vulnerable communities in the central African nation – many displaced by conflict in neighbouring states.

The objective is to help them protect themselves ahead of the rainy season, from July to November, when infection levels rise from mosquito bites containing the malaria parasite.

In a statement, UNDP Country Director Carol Flore Smerezniak said that conflict in the Lake Chad region had left millions of people in high-risk areas without access to malaria prevention tools, such as insecticide-treated bednets.

More than two million households are set to benefit from the campaign, in a country where malaria is the leading cause of death.

The particular focus on pregnant women and children stems from data indicating that of 800,000 confirmed malaria cases in 2016, more than four in 10 victims were youngsters under five, and around one in 10 were expectant mothers.

Maldives blogger's death “warrants prompt murder investigation”

Authorities in the Maldives have been urged to conduct a thorough murder investigation following the fatal stabbing of a prominent blogger and social media activist.

OHCHR, the UN human rights office, issued the appeal on Tuesday, after Yameen Rasheed was found last Sunday in the stairwell of his home with multiple injuries to his head, neck and shoulders.

Mr Rasheed had led a campaign to seek justice for journalist Ahmed Rilwan, who disappeared in 2014 and is believed to have been abducted by radicalized criminal gangs.

Speaking in Geneva, OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani urged the authorities to carry out a prompt and thorough murder inquiry, and to ensure that the perpetrators face justice in line with international human rights laws and standards.

"Mr Rasheed had in December reported to the Maldives Police Service that he was receiving targeted death threats following the publication of his photo along with those of others on an anonymous Facebook page, but he complained that he had to follow up for three days just to get a confirmation that his complaint had been registered."

The killing of Mr Rasheed comes amid an apparent upsurge in arrests and prosecutions of the political opposition, OHCHR's Ravina Shamdasani said.

In a statement the UN human rights office also called for the authorities to "take steps to remedy the shrinking space" for freedom of expression in the Maldives.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 4’04″


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