News in Brief 22 May 2017 – (AM)

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Migrants travelling to Libya across the Sahara Desert. Photo: Omar Hama

Libya needs urgent humanitarian aid as crisis deepens: UN

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says his agency, UNHCR, needs to increase its presence in Libya to respond to the growing humanitarian crisis in the country.

Filippo Grandi made the remarks on Sunday during a visit to the capital, Tripoli, where he met with government officials and visited detention centres holding refugees and migrants.

Mr Grandi expressed "shock" at the harsh conditions in which refugees and migrants were held, because of the lack of resources.

According to UNHCR, some 300,000 Libyans have been displaced by ongoing conflict and more than 1.3 million people are in need of urgent aid.

Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General António Guterres released a statement on Friday through his spokesperson, expressing "deep concern" over the military escalation at the Brak al-Shati air base in southern Libya.

He was particularly disturbed by the high number of fatalities as well as reports of summary executions of civilians, which, if confirmed, may constitute war crimes, the statement read.

News reports suggest that perhaps more than 100 people have died as a result of Thursday's attack on the airbase, mostly soldiers but also civilians.

This is the latest flare-up of violence in the North African nation since the civilian uprising in 2011 that led to the fall of long-time Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Since then, the country has been plagued by conflict, insecurity and political instability, in addition to a collapsing economy.

Indonesia urged by UN experts to "review and repeal" blasphemy law

The Government of Indonesia is being urged by a group of UN human rights experts to "review and repeal its criminalization of blasphemy."

The Special Rapporteurs on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmed Shaheed, and on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, and the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, made the call on Monday.

Their statement follows the recent conviction and imprisonment of Indonesian politician and former governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama also known as 'Ahok'

He was officially charged with "blasphemy" last November for citing a Qur'anic verse during his gubernatorial election campaign.

According to media reports, Mr Purnama is an ethnic Chinese and is the first non-Muslim to serve as Jakarta's governor in 50 years.

The UN experts are asking the Government to overturn Mr Purnama's sentence on appeal or to extend to him whatever form of clemency may be available under Indonesian law so that he may be released from prison immediately

UN migration agency fills humanitarian vacuum in DRC

The United Nations migration agency, or IOM, has stepped in to fill a humanitarian vacuum left by relief aid organizations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) eastern province of North Kivu.

Most humanitarian actors have pulled out of the many displacement sites in the area because of funding and security issues, the head of IOM's office in Goma, Boubacar Seybou, said in a press release issued on Monday.

Sweden's development agency has provided US $183,000 to the IOM.

The funds are being used by the agency to construct and rehabilitate water and sanitation infrastructure and provide 4,000 households with shelter kits.

For decades, says IOM, the DRC has experienced conflict and instability, triggering mass displacements and abuses of human rights at the hands of warring factions against innocent civilian populations.

Jocelyne Sambira, United Nations.

Duration: 3’30″

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