News in Brief 17 January 2016 (AM) – Geneva

17 January 2017

Appeal to Iran over death row prisoner

The proposed execution of a prisoner sentenced to death in Iran when he was a minor must not be allowed to go ahead, the UN said on Tuesday.

The appeal by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, OHCHR, comes amid reports that Sajad Sanjari is to be put to death imminently.

He was condemned in 2012 after fatally stabbing a man who he said had tried to rape him.

OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville said that international human rights law prohibits use of the death penalty against anyone under 18 years of age.

“One of the problems in Iran is that it’s pretty opaque. Quite often there are official mentions of executions, but sometimes there are not. So for example of the executions reported to have taken place last Saturday, the two cases in the Rasht central prison were reported in official media, but the other 14 cases in the Karaj central prison were not.”

According to the UN Human Rights Office, at least five minors were reportedly executed in Iran last year.

OHCHR has also condemned the execution of three male prisoners in Bahrain at the weekend.

The men had been convicted of a bombing in 2014 that killed three police officers.

But there are “serious doubts” about whether the accused were given a fair trial, OHCHR says.

WFP halts Deir Ez Zour airdrops

Humanitarian airdrops to the Syrian city of Deir Ez Zour have been suspended because they have become too dangerous, the World Food Programme has said.

Government-backed troops are reportedly battling ISIL forces there, part of the near six-year war.

Here’s the UN agency’s Bettina Luescher speaking to journalists in Geneva:

“There’s heavy fighting going on in and around the landing zone and in the parts of the city where the food distributions are taking place, and WFP partners on the ground simply cannot expose the lives of the 60 volunteers who are in that open landing zone and would receive the supplies and distribute them. It’s simply too dangerous to do this now...”

The airlift operation has been running since April last year and provided food aid to the entire population in Deir Ez Zour: about 110,000 people.

Across Syria, WFP and its partners help more than four million people.

Despite the fragile truce in the war-torn country, the humanitarian agency says it is still struggling to reach besieged and hard-to-reach areas, where people are described as “desperate”.

Influenza vaccine: it's not too late to get the jab, says WHO

And finally, an increase in the number of cases of influenza around the world has prompted a call by UN health chiefs for people to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Dr Wenqing Zhang said that the infectious period has started earlier than in previous years, with Europe and some countries in South-East Asia the worst affected so far.

“The message is very simple, to get vaccinated…Although it is not perfect, but this is the best available control measure so far to protect from influenza infection…It is never too late that people should get the vaccine now if they have not already done.”

According to the WHO, influenza causes at least a quarter of a million deaths every year.

The bug that’s mainly responsible for the current outbreak is the H3N2 virus.

The good news is that it responds to available anti-viral medications, WHO says.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 3’33”


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