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News in Brief 18 September 2020

News in Brief 18 September 2020

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations. 

Belarus debate in spotlight at Human Rights Council 

The Human Rights Council has passed a resolution on the deteriorating situation in Belarus, after the UN’s deputy human rights chief called on the Government to end “violent crackdowns” and “increasing repression” against protesters still contesting the result of last month's presidential elections, 

At the end of a memorable day of back-and-forth between the Council President and delegations - featuring more than a dozen points of order by delegations who questioned the right of some of those addressing the Council to speak - the Geneva-based forum finally adopted a resolution on the deteriorating rights situation. 

It passed by 23 votes for, two against and 22 abstentions. 

Delivering a statement for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, her deputy, Nada Al Nashif, said that despite violence by state security officers and thousands of arrests, peaceful mass demonstrations have continued. 

“We witnessed thousands of arrests, hundreds of reports of torture and other ill-treatment, including sexual violence and the reported torture of children. The violent abduction of people in broad daylight by masked individuals, presumably on the basis of their peacefully expressed opinions. Harassment, intimidation, pressure and reported expulsion from Belarus of members of the opposition, including the members of the Coordination Council, should stop.”    

Successive UN Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Belarus had consistently described a deeply oppressive environment for human rights in the country, Ms. Al Nashif noted. 

Syria: potential war crimes in Turkish-affiliated armed group areas  

Human rights violations are “rife” in areas of Syria controlled by armed groups affiliated with Turkey, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has said, citing possible war crimes. 

In a statement, Michelle Bachelet condemned the alleged abuse and called for an investigation by the Government in Ankara. 

The perpetrators’ actions went against human rights law and international humanitarian law, she added, with crimes committed the north, northwest and northeast Syria, in areas under the control of Turkey’s forces and affiliated fighters. 

Citing grave violations in Afrin, Ras al-Ain and Tel Abyad, Ms. Bachelet described increasing numbers of killings, kidnappings and unlawful transfers of people, as well as looting of houses and property seizure. 

Victims include people perceived to be allied with opposing parties, or those critical of Turkish-affiliated armed groups - or rich enough to pay ransoms – the High Commissioner said.  

Her Office, OHCHR, had documented the abduction and disappearance of civilians, including women and children, and their fate remains unknown, she added. 

Eastern Ukraine: UN humanitarian office sees signs of hope in ‘relative calm’ 

The protracted conflict in eastern Ukraine that is believed to have killed more than 14,000 people since 2014, has given way to a “relative calm”, UN humanitarians said on Friday. 

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said this was the result of a ceasefire in late July. 

It comes after years of fighting between Ukrainian government forces and mostly pro-Russian separatists. 

Spokesperson Jens Laerke in Geneva said that this had given “a sense of normality”, to civilians living either side of the contact line: 

“In eastern Ukraine, the ceasefire that came into force on 27 July has now contributed to the longest period of relative calm since the beginning of the conflict in 2014. Eastern Ukraine has sense of normality and people hope that it will become sustainable." 

Reported security incidents have dropped by more than half since the ceasefire - from 533 in July, to 251 in August. 

But this has not yet led to improved access for those in need of humanitarian aid, OCHA said, as COVID-19 precautions have prevented UN partners from scaling up their work. 

Today, only two of five official crossing points allow people to cross the front line, which is 500 kilometres long.  

Crossings have been limited mainly to those who have been granted permission negotiated by the humanitarian community.  




Daniel Johnson, UN News. 

  • Belarus debate in spotlight at Human Rights Council 

  • Syria: potential war crimes in Turkish-affiliated armed group areas  

  • Eastern Ukraine: UN humanitarian office sees signs of hope in ‘relative calm’ 

Audio Credit
Daniel Johnson, UN News - Geneva
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Photo Credit
Kseniya Halubovich