Briefing by Spokesperson for Secretary-General

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22-Aug-2017 00:13:14
Briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

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The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said it is deeply disturbed by unconfirmed reports of a high number of civilians killed by airstrikes in Ar Raqqa city over the last 24 hours.

Yesterday, unconfirmed reports indicated that over 30 people were reportedly killed in the Al-Sakhani neighbourhood, while eight internally displaced people from the same family were killed in a separate attack in another part of the city.

These attacks, if confirmed, are a shocking reminder that civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict in many parts of Syria.

In recent days and weeks, scores of civilians have reportedly been killed and injured in Raqqa city due to airstrikes and shelling, and up to 25,000 people remain trapped in the crossfire of the ongoing fighting.

The UN condemns any attack that is directed against civilians anD civilian infrastructure, and urges all parties fighting in Raqqa and across Syria to take every possible measure to spare and protect civilians and civilian infrastructure as in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that civilians continue to flee Iraq’s Telafar as military operations to retake the town, where up to 30,000 civilians are believed to remain, continue.

Humanitarian assistance is being provided at assembly points to the south and east of Telafar town, with more than 300 people having passed through these points yesterday and receiving assistance.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has received some 1,500 families at a transit centre south east of Mosul and is finalizing preparations to host up to 6,000 people at another camp. UNHCR is also managing a camp in Nimrud which will be able to receive up to 22,000 people fleeing Telafar. The Agency said it fears that Iraqi civilians are likely to be held as human shields again and that attempts to flee could result in executions and shootings. It calls on all parties to the conflict to allow civilians to leave the conflict area and to access to safety.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners are working with Iraqi health authorities to set up mobile medical clinics to provide lifesaving emergency and primary healthcare services for those fleeing Telafar.

The UN Human Rights Office and the UN Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) today jointly urged the Iraqi Government to ensure that the thousands of women and girls who survived rape and other forms of sexual violence by Da’esh fighters receive care, protection and justice.

They stressed that children born as a result of such violence do not face a life of discrimination and abuse.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has said that the physical, mental, and emotional injuries inflicted by Da’esh are almost beyond comprehension, and that if victims are to rebuild their lives, and those of their children, they need both justice and redress.

The new joint report said that the Iraqi Government is obliged, under domestic law and international human rights law, to ensure all victims have access to justice and reparations.

Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenca briefed the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East.

He noted that the recent crisis in Jerusalem has once again highlighted the unsustainability of the current situation, as well as the need for a political horizon and clear re-commitment by the international community and both parties to ending the occupation and realizing a two-State solution.

Mr. Jenca said that, in a few days’ time, the third anniversary of the ceasefire that ended the last round of hostilities between Hamas and Israel in Gaza in 2014 will take place and added that, since then, the overall humanitarian conditions in Gaza have worsened, with the punishing measures taken against Gaza by the Palestinian Authority since April only adding to the crippling humanitarian effect on the population because of Israel’s closures. He called on Palestinian leaders to address the destructive consequences of these divisions.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said it is extremely concerned about an appalling increase in the use of children, especially girls, as so-called “human bombs” in Northeast Nigeria. Since the beginning of 2017, 83 children have been used as human bombs, including 55 girls, most of them under 15 years old. This is already four times more than for all of last year. The agency said that children used as human bombs were above all victims, not perpetrators.

Boko Haram has sometimes, but not always, claimed responsibility for those attacks. According to UNICEF, the use of children in such attacks has a further impact of creating suspicion and fear of children released, rescued, or escaped from Boko Haram.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says the situation in Ethiopia remains concerning, especially in the Somali region, where successive failed rains have exacerbated the already-critical food security situation. Extraordinary measures are required to address the ongoing crisis.
The fifth round of food distributions has reached 330,000 of the targeted 3.3 million people in the Somali region. The ongoing distributions are expected to be completed by mid-September.

A Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator, Pete Manfield, has also been deployed to Ethiopia as of today to support the ongoing relief operations in and to ensure a coordinated response in the Somali region.
Given the high number of people who are severely malnourished, a US$16 million programme will be put in place in selected districts of the Somali region to target children under five and pregnant and lactating mothers.

The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has just released $10 million to support these efforts but fundraising efforts continue for the remaining $6 million needed for the programme.

The UN Human Rights Office today welcomed the news that former UN employee Erkin Musaev has been released by the Uzbek authorities, 11 years after he was arrested at Tashkent airport while travelling to a regional seminar.

Mr. Musaev, who was the country manager of a joint UNDP-European Union programme, was tried on three separate charges in 2006 and 2007 and received sentences of 15, 6 and 4 years respectively.

In 2008, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention declared that he had not been tried fairly and that his detention was arbitrary. His case was subsequently taken up by other UN Special Procedures and the Human Rights Committee, as well as by three successive High Commissioners for Human Rights.

The current High Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, raised Mr. Musaev’s case in his meeting with President Shavkat Mirziyoyev when he made the first ever visit to Uzbekistan by a UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in May this year.

During that visit, he urged the authorities to release all political prisoners, some of whom – like Erkin Musaev – also received very long prison sentences after highly problematic trial processes.

Tomorrow is the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition.

The Day seeks to reflect on history in order to shed light on the fight against all forms of oppression and racism today.

In her message for the Day, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said: “Ignorance is our enemy. Everyone must know the scale of the crime of the slave trade, the millions of lives broken and the impact on the fate of continents up to this very day. Everyone must be fully informed of the struggle that led to its abolition, so that together we can build societies that are fairer, and thus freer.”

The day is observed on the anniversary of the 1791 insurrection of enslaved men and women in the western part of the island of Santo Domingo, which, on proclaiming its independence became Haiti.
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