News in Brief 3 March 2017 (AM) – Geneva

3 March 2017

Sri Lanka’s slow progress on justice for past crimes “risks derailing peace”

A lack of progress in bringing to justice those responsible for gross human rights crimes in Sri Lanka risks derailing a lasting peace there.

The UN Human Rights Office, OHCHR, issued the warning on Friday, saying that police abuse and torture are still happening.

OHCHR also expressed concern at how long it has taken to tackle violations in Sri Lanka between 2002 and 2011, linked to the decades-long civil war that cost tens of thousands of lives.

Ravina Shamdasani is a spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office:

“The High Commissioner is calling on authorities at all level, from the head of State to military , police, intelligence and local-level leaders, to publicly issue unequivocal instructions to all branches of the military, intelligence and police forces that torture, sexual violence and other human rights violations are prohibited and will be punished.”

Ms Shamdasani added that violations need to be investigated promptly “to regain… the trust of all Sri Lankans” in the authorities”, and to reassure them that the State exists to protect the rights of all its people.

Mosul displacement numbers rise to 4,000 a day as Iraqi army advances

Displacement from the Iraqi city of Mosul has risen amid ongoing military advances against ISIL terrorists and fears that chemical weapons have been used against civilians.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said that 4,000 people a day are leaving the west of Mosul, which is still largely held by the extremists.

The total number of displaced is estimated at more than 191,000.

At least 100,000 of that number are youngsters, according to UN Children’s Fund UNICEF.

They’re being looked after in camps like Hamman Al Alil, south of Mosul.

Here’s the agency’s Bastien Vigneau, Emergency coordinator for Mosul, speaking over the phone from Iraq:

“Basically the children and the families that we meet in Hamman Al Alil are most likely coming by buses – this is organized by the military and from what I’ve seen for example I was there yesterday, is that they carry the bare minimum. They seem to be quite exhausted. I would say they’ve been in this situation for the last two-and-a-half years and extremely frightened of course by the operation happening and of course their relief to be in a much more secure environment.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), meanwhile, has condemned the use of chemical weapons in the Mosul conflict.

It released a statement on Friday saying that seven people with symptoms “consistent with an exposure to a toxic chemical agent” are receiving treatment in a hospital close to Mosul, where fighting is ongoing.

The symptoms of the patients - five children and two women - include blisters, redness in the eyes, irritation, vomiting, and coughing, ICRC says.

Hopes that Mali displaced could return home by end of year: IOM

Hopes are growing that tens of thousands of displaced people in Mali could return to their homes in safety by the end of the year.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said it was “confident” that this could happen if there is no resurgence of communal violence or armed conflict.

More than half a million people were displaced by an armed rebellion in northern Mali and military coup in January 2012.

Further violence last year forced more people to flee their homes, and it is now estimated that around 45,000 people remain displaced in the north of the country.

IOM says that communal violence has now abated.

And the agency says that its positive assessment of the situation is owing to ongoing efforts to help returnees.

These include rebuilding damaged housing, youth employment schemes and community projects.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 3'38"


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