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News in Brief 15 July 2020

News in Brief 15 July 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

Myanmar’s people deserve free and fair elections: UN independent expert

Ahead of elections in Myanmar later this year, the UN independent expert appointed to investigate rights abuses there, has said that its people deserve a “free and fair” poll.

Addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Thomas Andrews asked whether the vote would be open to all – “regardless of … race, ethnicity or religion”.

The rights expert also questioned whether the military, known as the Tatmadaw, would be accountable through their elected civilian representatives, or be “beyond the reach of civilian government”.

In 2017, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya fled Myanmar following a military clearance operation likened to a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” by former UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein.

Highlighting that the UN Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire had been ignored “in many areas of Myanmar”, Mr. Andrews noted that the situation was “escalating daily” in Rakhine state, causing growing numbers of civilian casualties and displacement.

Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya are forced to live in deplorable conditions in camps or in villages “without basic rights, including freedom of movement”, the Special Rapporteur said.

While welcoming the national strategy to close camps for the internally displaced, Mr. Andrews cautioned that the plan “not only prohibits the right of people to return home, but may force them into land susceptible to flooding and without access to basic services including healthcare and education”.

Venezuela: amputation and extortion in booming gold mining racket

The Human Rights Council has also heard about the serious exploitation and abuse of children and indigenous communities in Venezuela, where mining for gold and other minerals is booming.

On Wednesday, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said that the authorities had failed to investigate crimes linked to the industry in the region of Arco Minero del Orinoco, including extortion, amputation and miners being buried alive.

Criminal groups exercise control over a large number of mining operations there, where children as young as nine have been seen working, according to a report from Ms. Bachelet’s office, OHCHR.

This is despite the “considerable” presence of the Venezuelan military, whose commanders were allegedly paid off via a “system of corruption and bribery”, the report said – all made possible by exploiting unskilled and sometimes barefoot workers, forced to do 12-hour shifts down unsafe pits.

Monsoon-affected river communities in Bangladesh get vital aid

Finally, to Bangladesh, where river communities threatened by potentially devastating monsoon flooding, have been given help before disaster strikes, UN humanitarians said on Wednesday.

In a first, the UN released more than $5 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) earlier this month, after a forecast of severe flooding along the Jamuna River.

The money was used to distribute cash, livestock feed, storage drums and hygiene, dignity and health kits to thousands of vulnerable families, via UN agencies WFP, UNFPA and FAO.

Welcoming the innovative approach, UN emergency relief chief Mark Lowcock called it a “no-brainer” to use advances in predictive data to take action – in this case by helping families “get themselves, their livestock and their tools out of harm’s way before the deluge comes”.

“If disasters take us by surprise, it’s because we weren’t looking”, Mr Lowcock said, insisting that the new measures save more lives and cost less, as well as being a more dignified approach.

Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to climate-related shocks and stresses, including monsoon flooding.

In an average year, approximately one quarter of the country is inundated.

Daniel Johnson, UN News

  • Myanmar’s people deserve free and fair elections: UN independent expert

  • Venezuela: amputation and extortion in booming gold mining racket

  • Monsoon-affected river communities in Bangladesh get vital aid


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Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
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