News in Brief 23 November 2017 - Geneva (AM)

23 November 2017

Philippines urged to stop attacks and killings in anti-drugs campaign

The Philippines should investigate killings connected to the state’s war on drugs and stop the attacks, UN-appointed rights experts said on Thursday.

Three Special Rapporteurs made the appeal to the government of Rodrigo Duterte following what they said had been “a great number” of new deaths involving men, women and children.

Many of the killings appeared to have been perpetrated by law enforcement officials and “unknown assailants”, the rights experts said in a statement.

They added that the number of victims is unclear, owing to changes in official reporting, and the limited number of investigations under way.

In September, UN Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said he was gravely concerned by President Duterte’s “shoot-to-kill” policy - and by the absence of “credible investigations” into reports of thousands of extrajudicial killings.

Aid response continues for Iraq quake victims

To Iraq now, where efforts are ongoing to help communities affected by a deadly earthquake earlier this month.

Hundreds of people are believed to have died and thousands more injured when the 7.3 magnitude tremor struck on 12 November.

More than 1.8 million people live with 100 kilometres of the quake epicentre in the north-east of the country, on the border with Iran.

A specialized UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team (UNDAC) has been helping to assess humanitarian needs in Darbandikhan, Sulaymaniyah and Halabja.

Here’s UNDAC’s Winston Chang, speaking from near Darbandikhan dam, where there are clear signs of surface damage: “Right now, no imminent threat of flooding, no threat of flooding, no real danger of the dam breaking at this point in time, which brought a lot of reassurance to the government that it would lead into a much bigger disaster downstream.”

Work is ongoing to help affected communities, Mr Chang added, since the earthquake had damaged water filtration systems at the dam, which may also need strengthening.

In addition to assistance from the EU and World Bank, UN agencies including the World Health Organization (WHO) have also deployed emergency lifesaving aid, amid reports of major damage to hospitals and other buildings.

Alert over world’s smallest porpoise at endangered species meeting

An attempt to save one of the world’s most endangered sea mammals has been halted after one of them died as it was being captured earlier this month, senior UN conservationists said on Thursday.

John Scanlon, who heads the international convention on protected fauna and flora known as CITES, told journalists in Geneva that there are only 30 vaquita porpoises left in the wild.

It has been pushed to the edge of extinction by illegal netting of the Totoaba fish, whose swim bladder is highly prized, fetching up to $20,000 per kilo in China.

Mr Scanlon insisted that saving the animal was a question of sustainable development for people in the northern Gulf of California and Mexico:

“I mean you’re looking at a very profitable item, you’ve got communities living around the lake that can see there’s high profit for that. So you have to deal with the supply side, you but you have to work with local communities, you’re not going to resolve it in isolation…everything’s being done by the Mexican government, along with the US and China and others to say, ‘What can we do to save this magnificent, the world’s smallest porpoise, the most endangered cetacean, how can we save it?’ So it’s involving everybody, it’s a development issue as much as an environmental issue.”

Mexico, the US and China’s efforts to save the vaquita are to be reviewed by other Member States in Geneva.

It’s where 183 parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will be gathering from Monday.

Other urgent issues to be addressed include African elephant poaching; the activity is down to pre-2008 levels in East Africa, but it’s still a cause for concern in central and west states.

For the first time, Japan’s scientific whaling expeditions are also set to be discussed to see whether its pursuit of sei whales is in accordance with non-commercial trade regulations.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 4'04"


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