Spike in Syria attacks on civilians
Syrian civilians are dealing with a growing threat of improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, despite a fragile ceasefire in the northeast of the country, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, reported on Friday.
Briefing reporters in Geneva, Mr. Colville said that a spike of apparently indiscriminate IED attacks had been noted in residential areas and local markets, mainly in areas controlled by Turkish forces and their allies, since the October offensive into Syria began, but also in some areas under the control of Kurdish groups.
The UN has verified at least 49 attacks between 22 October and 3 December, recording some 78 civilian deaths, including 18 children.
Mr. Colville warned that these killings could amount to a serious violation of international humanitarian law, and constitute a war crime.
Another cause of concern for the UN is the continued fighting in the Idlib area, where ground strikes and airstrikes by forces aligned with the Government are resulting in civilian casualties.
Mr Colville called on all parties to the conflict to refrain from directing attacks against civilians, and from any indiscriminate attack, and to investigate all such incidents.
Australia’s end to medical evacuation for refugees may put lives at risk
Repealing an Australian law that allowed sick refugees and other migrants, held in offshore detention centres, to be sent to the country for treatment, deprives them of appropriate medical care, and may put their lives at risk.
This is how the High Commission for Human Rights has responded to the Australian Government’s decision, which came despite rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s recent appeal to Members of Parliament not to reverse the so-called Medevac legislation.
During Rupert Colville’s Friday briefing in Geneva, the spokesperson said that “Medical experts, not politicians, should be at the heart of decisions about people’s medical care”.
Mr. Colville highlighted the fact that, before the laws were passed, twelve people died in offshore detention centres in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, and noted that, under international human rights law, all individuals, regardless of their status, have the right to health.
The repeal of the laws means that sick people in offshore detention will now have no option but to take legal action in order to access medical care which, he said, will mean place an unnecessary burden on the Australian court system, and will mean further suffering for the affected people.
Haitians facing ‘dramatic’ food crisis
With around one in three Haitians needing urgent food assistance, the World Food Programme (WFP) is scaling up operations in the country, to provide emergency food assistance to 700,000 people.
On Friday, the WFP announced that, along with its partners, it is doing its utmost to reach a growing number of vulnerable people.
In order to be able to deliver humanitarian services, the agency is appealing for $62 million.
Millions of Haitians have been hit hard by rising prices, a weakening local currency, and a drop in agricultural production. The demonstrations and unrest in the country over the past three months have made it difficult for poorer households to access food, although a slight improvement in security has allowed WFP to deliver food assistance to families cut off since September.
The UN food agency is also providing cash and vouchers to tens of thousands of affected people, in order to help local markets to recover, and allow households to buy local food. So far this year, WFP has met the emergency food needs of around 138,000 people.