This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Violence in DR Congo Ebola hotspot leaves people ‘caught in crossfire’
Attacks on communities in an Ebola outbreak hotspot in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have created a humanitarian crisis and threatened aid distribution, the UN said on Friday, amid reports of serious civil unrest.
Tensions in eastern Beni territory in DRC’s North Kivu province have been rising since the launch of a security operation against an armed group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
Armed groups have been targeting civilians and displaced populations in the region, killing scores of people and leaving others at risk, UN Refugee Agency spokesperson Charlie Yaxley told journalists in Geneva.
“There are certain civilian groups who are trapped, they’re surrounded by armed forces and are currently not able to leave the areas they are in…There are ongoing attacks against schools, health centres, even where people are known to be sheltering, they’re being displaced again because of these attacks by armed groups; at times, people are getting caught in the crossfire.”
In a related development, the World Food Programme (WFP) said that the agency had temporarily suspended aid distribution because the safety of staff and partners could not be guaranteed.
According to UNHCR, Beni town is home to around 500,000 people.
There are at least 275,000 people in the surrounding areas who’ve already been displaced, and conditions for them are “quite dire and deteriorating,” the agency said.
Iraq: Guterres, Bachelet express concern at continued protester deaths
To Iraq now, where UN chief António Guterres has expressed deep concern over reports of the continued use of live ammunition against demonstrators.
This has led to a rising number of deaths and injuries, Mr. Guterres said in a statement – including in the southern city of Nasiriyah.
Echoing his appeal to protect the lives of demonstrators, respect the rights to freedom of expression and assembly and investigate the violence, UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said that United Nations staff in Iraq had confirmed that at least 24 people had been killed and more than 210 were injured in Nasiriyah.
Others were also killed and injured in Najaf, High Commissioner Bachelet said, while the overall number of casualties verified by the UN since protests began at the beginning of October now stands at 354 dead and 8,104 injured.
UN-appointed panel urges Colombia to do more to stop human rights defender murders
To Colombia finally, where a UN-appointed panel warned this week about high levels of violence against indigenous rights defenders and community leaders, linked to foreign mining companies.
In a review of Colombia, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination heard that more than 700 community leaders were murdered between January 2016 and mid-2019.
Last month alone, 36 indigenous people were killed.
Rapporteur Maria Moreno told the Committee that every 72 hours, a human rights defender dies in Colombia, where there are more than 100 indigenous peoples and over 60 languages.
Ethnic minorities lived in remote, mineral-rich parts of the country, which brought them into conflict with major development projects, the panel heard.
While the Committee congratulated Colombia bringing an end to five decades of armed conflict, it said that too little had been done to raise the visibility of minorities and protect their rights.
No less than 13 armed groups could directly affect the lives of 40 per cent of the population, the panel said, and children were still being recruited, as well as individuals of African descent and other minorities.
Replying to the Committee, the Colombian delegation said that of more than 300 murder cases in question, 178 had been resolved.
Ten of the most sought-after criminals who thr eatened human rights defenders had been captured, the State party said, while the police and army had set up specialized units for the protection of human rights activists and social leaders.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.