This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Belarus concerns lead opening session of Human Rights Council
UN Member States gathered in person in Geneva on Monday for a new session of the Human Rights Council; its work began with a decision to hold an urgent debate on the situation in Belarus.
Leading the request, the European Union delegation highlighted what it called a “steep deterioration of the human rights situation” in the country, before and after the disputed presidential election in August.
The development follows condemnation of violence against demonstrators in Belarus since the August presidential election by UN rights chief, Michelle Bachelet.
Over the weekend, UN Secretary-General António Guterres also expressed concern about the use of force against peaceful protesters and detentions.
The delegation for Belarus rejected the proposed debate, citing outside interference.
Here’s Germany’s Ambassador Michael von Ungern-Sternberg, representing the European Union:
“The enforced disappearances, forced abductions and expulsions and arbitrary detentions continue to take place every day in Belarus. In past days we have witnessed a further escalation of violence and intimidation against members of the Coordination Council and other representatives of civil society. The opposition leader, Maria Kolesnikova, was abducted and journalists lost their accreditations. Therefore, the situation on the ground clearly warrants an Urgent Debate. The Human Rights Council should not stay silent on this matter.”
After a successful vote, it was decided to hold the urgent debate this Friday.
Global surge in attacks against journalists covering protests, says UNESCO
Restrictions on media freedom by State security officials have increased sharply in 2020, the UN agency UNESCO said on Monday.
Between January and June this year, the UN educational, scientific and cultural organisation highlighted 21 protests around the world where the exercise of press freedom has been violated.
Journalists have been attacked, arrested and even killed, UNESCO said in a new report.
In some protests, up to 500 separate violations took place, the UN agency said, citing the Committee for the Protection of Journalists.
During protests linked to the Black Lives Matter movement, violence included the use of rubber bullets or pepper balls, blinding several journalists.
UNESCO’s findings point to a “wider upward trend” in the use of unlawful force by police and security forces over the last five years, it said, with more than 30 protests impeded by police and security forces last year, double the number in 2015.
Support arrives for hundreds made homeless by Greek island refuge fires
Assistance has been stepped up to asylum seekers on Lesvos island in Greece after they were left homeless by fires at the large and overcrowded centre where they’d been living.
The UN refugee agency UNHCR said on Monday that it had pitched hundreds of tents on the island to provide emergency shelter to 2,200 people, a fraction of those left homeless by fires at Moria camp.
Some 12,000 people - including thousands of children - had been sheltering there until a series of fires beginning last Tuesday devastated shelters and common areas.
The majority have been forced to sleep out in the open, on road, car parks and beaches while they wait for aid.
The UN agency has been offering support to the authorities and bringing in core relief items for 6,000 people on Lesvos.
In a statement, UNHCR noted that the situation showed the need to alleviate overcrowding, improve security, infrastructure and services in all five reception centres on the Greek islands.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.