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News in Brief 16 March 2023

News in Brief 16 March 2023

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

Russia’s energy grid attacks, torture in Ukraine could be crimes against humanity: UN probe

Russian forces in Ukraine faced fresh accusations of war crimes on Thursday as UN-appointed independent human rights investigators released the latest findings of their ongoing probe.

According to the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, set up one year ago at the request of the Human Rights Council, Russian troops committed a “wide range” of violations across the country, many of which are war crimes.

These included attacks with explosive weapons in populated areas, wilful killings of civilians, unlawful confinement, torture, rape and other sexual violence, as well as unlawful transfers and deportations of children.

In addition, Russian attacks against Ukraine’s energy grid left millions without power in freezing temperatures.

Here’s Commission chairperson Erik Møse:

“The Commission has also found that the waves of attacks from 10 October 2022 on Ukraine’s energy-related infrastructure by the Russian armed forces, and the use of torture by Russian authorities, may amount to crimes against humanity. The Commission recommends further investigations.”

Cocaine trafficking surges following COVID-19-related slowdown

Routed through new hubs and expanded criminal networks, cocaine trafficking has made a dramatic comeback following a slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said on Thursday.

Alongside heightened criminal network activity, UNODC’s new report has found record levels of production and a 35 per cent jump in coca cultivation from 2020 to 2021.  

The supply surge matches a steep growth in demand, with many regions showing a steady rise in cocaine users over the past decade.

While the cocaine market remains concentrated in the Americas and parts of Europe, the report warns that there is a strong potential for a large expansion in Africa and Asia.

UN rights chief calls for further human rights progress in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan’s human rights reforms have “a lot of work still ahead” despite progress in some areas, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the end of his official visit to Uzbekistan, Mr. Türk called for action to close the gender gap, civil society participation in reforms and media freedom guarantees.

The UN rights chief expressed hope that the country will “swiftly” join an international mechanism outlawing torture, noting that “actions always speak louder than words”.

The High Commissioner also reiterated calls for a “transparent and independent review” of events in July 2022 in the city of Nukus, where 18 people died and hundreds were injured in clashes between protesters and security forces.

At the same time, Mr. Türk recognized that “human rights thinking and action have become more ingrained into the country’s fabric and society”.

He praised Uzbekistan’s cooperation with international human rights mechanisms and highlighted “significant” legal reforms in recent years, as well as progress on ending forced labour, addressing statelessness and repatriating over 500 women and children from camps in Syria and elsewhere.

Dominika Tomaszewska-Mortimer, UN News.

  • Energy grid attacks, torture in Ukraine by Russian military could be crimes against humanity
  • Cocaine trafficking surges following COVID-19-related slowdown
  • UN human rights chief calls for further progress in Uzbekistan
Audio Credit
Dominika Tomaszewska-Mortimer, UN News - Geneva
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Photo Credit
© UNICEF/Diego Ibarra Sánchez