News in brief 28 April (AM)

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Opening of the biennial high-level panel discussion on the death penalty, organized as part of the Human Rights Council's current session. 1 March 2017. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

 Arkansas executions "deeply troubling" says UN human rights office

The UN human rights office (OHCHR) says it is "deeply troubled" by the recent legalized killings of four prisoners in Arkansas in the space of eight days.

The executions follow a 12 year de facto moratorium on the use of the death penalty in the state.

The latest prisoner to be executed by lethal injection was Kenneth Williams, who was pronounced dead at just after 11pm Thursday local time.

Ledell Lee was executed on 20 April, and Marcel Williams and Jack Jones on 24 April.

Elizabeth Throssell, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has more.

"We welcome the fact that the executions of four other men in Arkansas have been stayed but are deeply concerned that the death penalty has been carried out in these four cases. The reason stated by the Governor of Arkansas for proceeding with the executions was that the State's supply of one of the drugs used in lethal injections – midazolam – was due to expire on 30 April and it was unclear whether further supplies could be obtained. Such an argument led to the scheduling of the execution of these men being accelerated in an arbitrary manner with the expiration date of a drug being the determining factor."

The executions in Arkansas have taken place amid the steady decline of the death penalty in the US, from 52 in 2009 to 20 in 2016, Ms Throssel said, adding that there have been 10 executions so far this year.

WHO investigating reports linked to unexplained deaths in Liberia

The World Health Organization (WHO) has received a report from Liberian health authorities about a cluster of unexplained illness and deaths that have occurred at a hospital in Greenville, Sinoe country, south east of the capital Monrovia.

Since Monday, 19 people have fallen sick, 11 people have died and five are currently hospitalised. Most of them are under the age of 21.

Symptoms observed include fever, vomiting, headache and diarrhoea.

Fadela Chaib is the WHO Spokesperson.

"The response team from the country and the support team from WHO are investigating these reports because it seems that all of these people were attending the funeral of a religious leader. So, the first idea that you have is: "is it Ebola? No". They have taken samples from seven of the dead people and I can tell you Ebola is not confirmed."

Samples have also been taken from water sources for environmental testing, Ms Chaib said.

As a precaution, she added, doctors in the hospital were isolating those who were sick from others.

World urged not to neglect crisis in Central African Republic

Wrapping up a four-day visit to the Central African Republic (CAR), senior humanitarians are urging the world to not neglect the crisis there, the UN humanitarian agency, OCHA, reports.

Conflict and frequent upsurges of violence has uprooted one-fifth of the population, aggravated hunger and malnutrition and prevented aid from reaching people in extreme need, the agency says.

"The people of CAR need our support now", said Najat Rochdi, the Humanitarian Coordinator in the country, and a member of the team that met with affected communities, civil society, donors, aid workers and authorities in the capital, Bangui.

The country could spiral back into chaos because of indifference and neglect and the effects will be felt far beyond CAR's borders, he warned.

An uptake in violence last October forced tens of thousands to flee their homes in the eastern and western regions, and humanitarian workers are operating under increasingly dangerous conditions.

CAR has registered one of the highest rate of attacks against humanitarians in the world. Six were killed in 2016 alone.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 3’51″

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