News in Brief 13 October 2017 – Geneva (AM)

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A teenage former kidnap victim of Boko Haram, pictured in a shelter in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria. Photo: UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson VII

Fair trial concerns for Nigeria's Boko Haram suspects

Concerns have been raised by the UN about the trials of more than 2,000 suspected Boko Haram militants in Nigeria.

OHCHR, the UN human rights office, said on Friday that it is worried by a "lack of transparency", as the hearings are being held behind closed doors, with journalists and members of the public excluded.

Boko Haram insurgents have conducted a years-long campaign of terror in Nigeria's north-east and neighbouring countries, characterised by suicide bomb attacks, kidnappings, rape and pillaging.

Here's OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville:

"We're very uneasy about this process. Clearly, Boko Haram operatives are guilty of many crimes and should be dealt with. But when you see the scale, 2,300 people and just four judges dealing with it, that brings a whole raft of concerns of course."

Speaking in Geneva, Mr Colville welcomed the fact that the defendants were going to court in Niger state, as many had been in pre-trial detention since 2009.

But he said that it was not clear how many of the suspects were men or women, nor if they had a lawyer to represent them in a language which they could understand.

Thousands still trapped in Syria's Raqqa

Ongoing fighting in Syria's Raqqa has trapped thousands of people who speak of an increasingly desperate situation as the military bid continues to drive out ISIL extremists.

UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has urged the warring parties to allow civilians to leave, saying that they risk death unless they're offered safe passage from the last ISIL-held neighbourhoods.

Andrej Mahecic is a spokesperson for UNHCR:

"Those who manage to escape speak of deteriorating conditions inside the city. Food, water, medicines and electricity are scarce. We reiterate our call that trapped civilians be allowed safe passage to reach safety, shelter and protection. These people face the bleak choice of staying in the city engulfed by conflict or fleeing through the fighting…essentially it's a choice risking death."

Ongoing fighting in neighouring Deir-ez-Zour governorate has also caused more misery, the UN agency reports, with nearly 100,000 people forced to flee in the first week of the month.

Meanwhile, in the west of the country, UNHCR said that it has managed to deliver humanitarian assistance to more than 3,000 families in rural Hama for the first time in more than a year.

Syrian refugees given presidential welcome to Chile

And staying with the Syria conflict, dozens of the country's refugees have arrived in Chile to start a new life – but not before they received a personal welcome from the South American nation's President, Michelle Bachelet.

Mrs Bachelet was waiting for the 66 adults and children as they landed at Santiago airport on Wednesday, after leaving Lebanon.

A former exile of Chile herself, Mrs Bachelet told the newcomers that her country had "the obligation" and "privilege" to offer them shelter.

She said she hoped that the Syrians would be able to "start leaving behind their fear, pain and uncertainty" caused by their country's ongoing war.

The resettlement operation was co-organised by the UN migration agency, IOM, and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

It coincides with ongoing efforts by the UN to encourage countries to establish more legal pathways for migration – and to develop solutions for refugees, amid record levels of people displaced by conflict and persecution.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 3’20″

 

 

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