Chemical weapons watchdog chief expresses ‘grave concern’ over alleged Syria attack
The head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has expressed his “grave concern” over the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria’s east Ghouta on Saturday.
OPCW Director-General, Ambassador Ahmet Üzümcü, said in a statement released on Monday that the organization’s Situation Centre had been “closely monitoring the incident”, which news reports suggest has left at least 42 people dead, with fears that the toll will rise as rescue workers continue searching basements in Douma, where families had sought refuge.
The chemical weapons watchdog said its Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) was gathering more information from “all available sources” to see whether chemical weapons were used.
The FFM has previously confirmed the use of toxic chemical weapons in Syria since 2014, and the Chemical Weapons Convention comprehensively prohibits their use.
OPCW oversees the global effort to “permanently and verifiably eliminate chemical weapons”.
‘Human control’ of new automated weapons ‘essential’, UN conference hears
Human control of military drones and other advanced, new automated weapons that can kill, is essential, a UN conference in Geneva heard on Monday.
Member States were taking part in discussions on so-called Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS), highlighting the need for greater international cooperation, given the fast pace of technological change in the field.
Here’s European Union representative Anne Kemppainen, Head of Political Section for Non-proliferation and Disarmament, with the EU Delegation in Geneva.
“We firmly believe that humans should make the decisions with regard to the use of lethal force, exert sufficient control over lethal weapons systems they use, and remain accountable for decisions over life and death. The first GGE [Group of Government Experts] meeting in November confirmed that international law, including IHL and human rights law, fully applies to all weapons systems, including LAWS, and that States remained responsible and accountable for their development and use in armed conflict.”
In addition to deciding on the issue of responsibility with regard to autonomous weapons, signatories to the Convention that governs them are also expected to discuss the future military applications of the technology at two meetings scheduled for later this year.
Lionel Messi takes on new ambassadorial role for World Tourism Organization
The footballer regarded by many as the greatest player ever, Lionel Messi, has been appointed as Ambassador for Responsible Tourism by the UN’s World Tourism Organization (UNWTO).
The Barcelona and Argentina star said that he had the “enriching” opportunity to explore new cultures and societies during his travels, and he was happy to help make tourism a valuable source of sustainable development, representing UNWTO.
The organization’s Secretary-General, Zurab Pololikashvili, appointed Messi to his new ambassadorial role at Barcelona’s home stadium, the Camp Nou, on Saturday.
“Messi is a unique sportsman and an example of how willpower and constant work yield good results,” he said, adding that it was an honour to have him join UNWTO in promoting the “positive values and benefits that tourism represents”.
Messi’s new post also sees Spanish footballer Fernando Hierro and legendary coach Vincente del Bosque join the UNWTO squad to promote “the transformative power” of tourism, the organization said.