This is the News in Brief, from the United Nations
Syria envoy urges prisoner release as Constitutional Committee prepares to start work in Geneva
Forty-eight hours before a 150-member Constitutional Committee for Syria meets for the first time in Geneva to try to agree on a new foundational text for the war-ravaged country, UN Special Envoy Geir O. Pedersen on Monday repeated his call for a nationwide ceasefire and the release of prisoners to build trust between belligerents.
Speaking in the Swiss city, Mr. Pedersen said that representatives from the Government of Syria and opposition groups had “ownership” of a political process that could end more than eight years of brutal conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions.
“The two parties have agreed to work expeditiously and continuously. It is impossible to say how long it will take for them to conclude its work, but as long as it is done with serious intentions, and we see progress and as you know I will be reporting to the Security Council, I’m optimistic that we will within the not-too-distant future, that we see a tangible progress in the discussions.”
Talks between Syrian Government and opposition representatives, along with civil society voices, begin on Wednesday.
A smaller group taken from all three delegations will then meet to prepare and draft proposals in line with the UN Charter, Security Council resolutions, Syria’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.
‘Multi-generational tragedy’ in Israel and Palestine demands political will for two-State solution
Pervasive deteriorating facts on the ground in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “are pushing us every further” from achieving a viable two-State solution, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council on Monday.
With the spotlight on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Special Envoy Nicolay Mlandenov detailed “new dangerous flashpoints” emerging in the region, under rapidly shifting developments in the Middle East as a whole, which have snowballed into a growing threat to international peace and security.
A growing number of Israeli settlements, illegal under international law, remains a “substantial obstacle” in the peace process. Meanwhile, Palestinian structures have been demolished or seized, as Israeli-issued building permits are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain.
Mr. Mladenov stressed that while the humanitarian crisis remains a top priority, the core of the crisis in Gaza is political.
Despite major humanitarian gains through UN efforts such as delivery of emergency aid, and increased availability of electriicty, efforts to address the Israeli-Palestinian question, as with the Middle East at large, “cannot be sustained on a purely humanitarian basis. They need a political perspective that illuminates a path forward…” he urged.
Egypt must end repression of protesters and rights defenders, UN experts decry
A group of UN rights experts has called on Egypt to protect people’s rights to freedom of speech, following a surge of arrests targeting demonstrators, rights defenders and journalists, and reported use of violent crackdowns by authorities.
In response to a wave of peaceful protests across the country on 20 and 21 September which called for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s resignation, and an end to government corruption, authorities have reportedly used live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas, and arrested at least 3,000 people including bystanders, academics, and lawyers in the upheaval.
The experts said “We express our concerns at the heavy-handed response by Egyptian security forces against the protesters and others...We recall that the primary duty of law enforcement is to protect peaceful assemblies”, adding that use of force is not permitted unless strictly necessary, and lethal force, should be a measure of last resort.
Alarming reports of physical and verbal abuse, including allegations of torture, against three human rights defenders who have been detained and charged represent additional grave human rights violations.
The panel expressed further concern over the chance that one of the rights defenders, Mohamed El-Baqer, may have been targeted specifically in reprisal for his role as head of an NGO serving Rights and Freedoms, which submitted to Egypt’s forthcoming Universal Periodic Review, set to assess the country’s human rights record.
The systematic targeting of human rights defenders has been previously condemned by the UN experts, who have brought their concerns to the Government of Egypt, and continue to urge authorities to engage in genuine dialogue and abstain from abuse.
Natalie Hutchison, UN News.