This is the News in Brief from the United Nations
Mass graves uncovered in former ISIL-held areas of Iraq
More than 200 mass graves have been uncovered in Iraq in areas formerly controlled by ISIL militants, the UN announced on Tuesday.
UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said thousands of victims were found – evidence of what she called ISIL’s relentless campaign of terror and violence between 2014 and 2017.
“While it is difficult to determine the total number of people in these graves, the smallest site, in west Mosul, contained eight bodies while the biggest is believed to be the Khasfa sinkhole south of Mosul which may contain thousands.”
The burial sites are in the governorates of Ninewa, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din and Anbar, in the northern and western parts of the country according to the report by the UN Human Rights Office and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).
These sites could contain critical forensic material to assist in the identification of victims and lead to justice for the victims’ families.
Access granted to free child soldiers in South Sudan, says UN Special Representative Gamba
The Government of South Sudan has agreed to let UN workers assess how many children are still being held or abused by armed groups in remote parts of the war-torn country, where a peace deal was recently signed.
The development was announced on Tuesday by Virginia Gamba, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.
She told journalists in Geneva that the number of violations against children in South Sudan in the last four years is greater than those in Afghanistan and Syria combined:
“Decapitation of children, the use of sexual violence against very small children as part of a weapon and a tactic of war to communities, the abduction of children, the recruitment of children, forced use of children in the support of war efforts of one side or the other. All parties are committing this.”
A report recently issued by Ms. Gamba indicated alarming levels of violations against children by all warring parties, including in the greater Upper Nile and greater Equatoria region.
So far this year, 900 children have been released by armed groups in South Sudan.
In an appeal to the international community, the Special Representative said that child victims of conflict everywhere need help to return to their communities to break the cycle of violence.
But she said the money the UN has for this has halved in the last seven years.
China announces human rights progress amid detention camp concerns
China has pledged to eradicate poverty in rural areas by 2020 during a scheduled UN review of human rights in the People’s Republic, amid concerns over the alleged arbitrary detention of religious and ethnic minorities there.
Speaking in Geneva on Monday, during the Universal Periodic Review of the People’s Republic, head of delegation and Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Le Yucheng, said that “four decades of economic reform and opening up” had brought about “remarkable progress” in human rights.
Mr. Le’s words are spoken by an interpreter:
“Nearly 1.4 billion people have shaken off poverty and are now enjoying a moderately prosperous life…we established the largest education, social security and healthcare systems in the world, moreover, we are promoting ecological conservation and taking firm steps to prevent and control pollution…By 2020 all the rural population living below the current poverty line are expected to escape poverty.”
Under the review system, all UN Member States can participate in the dialogue with the country under review.
They included Australia, which welcomed progress in “some economic and social rights” in China, before calling for an end to the detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang “and other Muslim groups”.
Several other States including France, Germany and the United States recommended the abolition of all internment camps and the immediate release of the “hundreds and thousands - possibly millions” of people.
In response, China’s delegation explained that the Xianjang centres in question offered alternatives to terrorism and extremism.
Vocational training was offered free of charge, along with help learning languages and combating extremism for those “who have been lured into terrorist activities”, China’s representative insisted, adding that the policy had “nothing” to do with religion.
Conor Lennon, UN News.
Text by Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva