This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
WHO urges greater COVID-19 surveillance
In a year already defined by the COVID-19 pandemic, a new higher transmissible mutation has prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday to call on African countries to boost their surveillance of the virus.
South Africa recently detected the new variant, which is likely linked to the ongoing surge of COVID-19 infections in the country but appears to transmit more easily.
WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti commented that, while new COVID-19 variants are common, the news from South Africa was “very concerning”, adding that investigations are underway to understand the new mutation’s behaviour and steer the response accordingly.
Nigeria is also carrying out more investigations on a variant it identified in samples collected in August and October.
Blackwater pardons an “affront to justice” – UN experts
And in the United States, five independent UN experts railed against President Donald Trump’s pardoning of four Blackwater Worldwide contractors who were convicted in 2015 for war crimes in Iraq.
The private security contractors were prosecuted and found guilty of multiple criminal acts committed during a 2007 massacre at Nisour Square in Baghdad, including the killings of 17 unarmed civilians.
President Trump pardoned the four after the US courts found them guilty in 2015 of first-degree murder and manslaughter.
The UN experts, who comprise the Working Group on the use of mercenaries and are part of the Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council, said the 22 December pardons violated US obligations under international law.
Chairperson Jelena Aparac upheld that they are “an affront to justice and to the victims of the Nisour Square massacre and their families”.
The experts also called on all States parties to the Geneva Conventions to condemn the pardons.
Refugee evacuations ‘crucial lifeline’
As the year draws to a close, the UN Refugee Agency’s last evacuation flight in 2020 has safely transported 130 vulnerable asylum seekers from Libya to Rwanda.
The aircraft left the capital, Tripoli, on Tuesday afternoon, with women, men and children from Eritrea, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia on board.
While most of them had been living in urban areas, many had previously been held in detention centres across the country.
The UN agency’s chief of mission in Libya, Jean-Paul Cavalieri, said that the evacuations have proven to be “a crucial lifeline for vulnerable refugees” and appealed to the international community “to provide greater support to these populations”.
New flights will resume in 2021.
Liz Scaffidi, UN News.