This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Myanmar constitutional reform ‘a positive development’
A newly formed parliamentary committee to amend Myanmar’s constitution was welcomed as a positive move towards constitutional reform by Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the country.
"The establishment of this committee is a positive development that I hope will aid Myanmar to truly transition to democracy," she said in a statement on Thursday.
The ruling National League for the Democracy party, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, pledged to amend the constitution during its 2015 national election campaign, which it won by a landslide.
The previous military government had drafted the existing constitution in 2008, which reserves 25 per cent of parliamentary seats for the military, as well as designating military control of the Ministries of Home Affairs, Defense Services and Border Affairs.
"The current constitution is not democratic, and Myanmar cannot be considered a democracy without it being amended”, underscored the Special Rapporteur.
Yemen: Food available, not accessible
Moving to Yemen, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock expressed deep concern that the Organization has been unable to access the Red Sea Mills storage depot in Hudaydah since September 2018.
As some 10 million people across the country remain just a step away from famine, Mr. Lowcock explained that for more than four months, enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a whole month has been sitting unused and possibly spoiling in silos at the mills.
“No-one gains anything from this, but millions of starving people suffer”, he spelled out.
Moreover, last month two silos hit by mortar fire destroyed probably enough grain to feed hundreds of thousands of people for a month.
“These events are to be deplored” the Relief Coordinator underscored.
Mr. Lowcock said “we can save huge numbers of people”, most of them in areas controlled by Houthi rebels, but we need more access to do that “from the authorities who control these areas”.
UN rights chief ‘concerned’ over Jehovah’s Witness sentencing
The UN human rights chief has described Thursday’s sentencing in Russia of a Danish Jehovah’s Witness to six years in prison on charges of “organising the activity of a banned extremist organisation” as a “dangerous precedent”.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that she was deeply concerned by Dennis Christensen’s sentencing, a month after Russia’s Supreme Court declared the Jehovah’s Witnesses – a United States-headquartered Christian denomination – an extremist group.
Mr. Christensen was accused of continuing to organize and work on behalf of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the city of Oryol, despite knowing that the group had been outlawed by the State.
The UN rights chief said that the “harsh sentence imposed on Christensen creates a dangerous precedent, and effectively criminalises the right to freedom of religion or belief for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia”.
She called on the authorities “to drop charges against and to release all those detained for exercising their rights to freedom of religion or belief, the freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association”.
Liz Scaffidi, UN News.