This is the News in Brief from the United Nations in Geneva
Guterres renews call for UN Security Council unity over Syria
Reports of a new alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria’s East Ghouta at the weekend have been condemned by the Secretary-General, who on Tuesday repeated his call for the UN Security Council to unite on the issue and ensure accountability.
Antonio Guterres’s message was read by the Director of the UN Information Service at the UN in Geneva, Alessandra Vellucci:
“Any confirmed use of chemical weapons, by any party to the conflict and under any circumstances, is abhorrent and a clear violation of international law. The seriousness of the recent allegations requires a thorough investigation using impartial, independent and professional expertise. In that regard, I reaffirm my full support for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and its Fact-Finding Mission in undertaking the required investigation into these allegations.”
The UN chief’s communiqué comes after UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told the Security Council that at least 49 people had been killed, and hundreds injured, in an alleged chemical attack in Douma on Saturday evening.
Aid agencies respond to uptick in Syria clashes
Staying with Syria, In Geneva on Tuesday, UN humanitarian organizations expressed alarm at ongoing violence in several areas of Syria which has caused the mass displacement of civilians to spiral.
UN Refugee Agency UNHCR reported that more than 130,000 people have fled Eastern Ghouta in the past month alone.
One-third have been given shelter in eight centres in Rural Damascus – where UNHCR has helped improve conditions.
But these shelters still “pose a serious health risk”, particularly to women and children, according to UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic:
“As you can imagine, if you only have the clothes you wear, you have nowhere to wash them, nowhere to change, you have no way to keep your personal hygiene, and this only adds to all of the risks that these people have been already exposed to and are being currently exposed to in congested shelters.”
Mr Mahecic said that elsewhere in the war-torn country the situation is “desperate”, including among 137,000 Syrians displaced from the Afrin region in the north.
UNHCR has responded by providing essential aid, shelter and protection services.
Detention “horror” uncovered by UN Human Rights Office
Thousands of people in Libya have been detained for prolonged periods in prisons run by armed groups linked to “successive” governments since the overthrow of President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) said on Tuesday.
In a new report the UN office details how men, women and children “across Libya” have been exposed to torture and other abuse “based on their tribal or family links and perceived political affiliations”.
Some 6,500 people are believed to be in prisons overseen by state ministries.
It is not known how many more have been detained – or killed - in facilities controlled by armed groups that Libyan governments have come to rely on for law enforcement, the report’s authors say.
Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva