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News in Brief 25 September 2023

News in Brief 25 September 2023

This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.

Ukraine: Continued use of torture, rape by Russian forces say rights experts

Russian forces in Ukraine faced new allegations of war crimes on Monday as UN-appointed independent rights experts published the findings of their latest report into Russia’s full-scale invasion.

Members of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine told the UN Human Rights Council that they have documented attacks with explosive weapons on residential buildings and civilian infrastructure and medical institutions, torture, as well as sexual and gender-based violence.

Here’s Commission Chair Erik Møse addressing the Council in Geneva:

“The Commission has found that in the Kherson region, Russian soldiers raped and committed sexual violence against women of ages ranging from 19 to 83 years, often together with threats or commission of other violations. Frequently, family members were kept in an adjacent room, thereby forced to hear the violations taking place.”

The Commission said that its investigations in Kherson and Zaporizhzhya indicate the “widespread and systematic” use of torture by Russian armed forces against persons accused of being informants of the Ukrainian military, which in some cases led to death. 

The Commissioners also indicated that they have continued to investigate individual situations of alleged transfers of unaccompanied children by Russian authorities to the Russian Federation. 

They expressed concern about allegations of genocide in Ukraine, warning that “some of the rhetoric transmitted in Russian state and other media may constitute incitement to genocide”.

The UN-appointed independent rights investigators will be submitting a report to the General Assembly next month.

Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant situation remains ‘very fragile’: Grossi

Staying with Ukraine: “We are not going anywhere” is the message from UN nuclear safety watchdog chief Rafael Grossi, about his agency, the IAEA’s commitment to continued monitoring of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants.

Addressing the opening of the IAEA’s General Conference in Vienna on Monday, Mr. Grossi said that 53 missions mobilizing more than 100 agency staff have been deployed as part of a continued presence at Ukraine’s five nuclear power plants.

These include the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, or ZNPP, on the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine, where Mr. Grossi said that the situation remained “very fragile”.

The ZNPP is controlled by Russian forces but operated by its Ukrainian staff. It is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and the IAEA has been monitoring the situation there since the early days of the conflict.  

In a message read out at the opening of the General Conference, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that he applauded the “courageous service” of IAEA personnel stationed at the plant. He pledged that the UN will continue to do “all it can” to ensure the safe rotation of experts operating across Ukraine’s five nuclear facilities.

Chad: Sudan refugee health crisis is escalating warns WHO

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) has called for urgent funding support in the face of a growing health crisis in eastern Chad, where over 400,000 people have fled the conflict in Sudan over the past five months.

The Senior Advisor to WHO’s regional office for Africa, Dr Ramesh Krishnamurthy, stressed the need to “ramp up” interventions in the areas of primary health care, mental health, maternal and child health as well as nutrition. 

WHO said on Sunday that in a recent screening in Chad, nearly 13,000 children under five were found to be acutely malnourished. Hospital admissions of children with malnutrition have increased by more than half across the province of Ouaddaï, which is hosting more than 80 per cent of refugees from neighbouring Sudan. 

In Ouaddaï, the UN health agency has continued to deliver critical aid to the town of Adré just a few hundred metres from the Sudanese border, working with partners to support the incoming refugees with health services, vaccination and medicines.

To date, WHO has delivered 80 metric tonnes of supplies to Adré, most recently handing over beds and mattresses to support medical and surgical care.

Reproductive rights must be respected in crises, say experts

States must ensure the right to sexual and reproductive health without discrimination, in particular in humanitarian crises, UN-appointed independent rights experts said on Monday. 

The experts, which include the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health Tlaleng Mofokeng, warned of an “exacerbated” risk of violations of sexual and reproductive health rights in situations of emergency, humanitarian or conflict settings.

Women and girls are especially vulnerable to serious harm, the experts said, and urged countries to ensure access to modern contraceptive methods including emergency contraception, and access to legal and safe abortion. 

They called for training for healthcare providers on safe abortion and aftercare where resources are limited.

 The experts also welcomed the “decriminalisation of abortion in some countries”. Earlier this month, Mexico's Supreme Court abolished all federal criminal penalties for abortion and ruled that national laws prohibiting it were unconstitutional.

According to WHO, ensuring that women and girls have access to safe, respectful and non-discriminatory abortion care is fundamental to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) relating to good health and well-being as well as gender equality. 

Dominika Tomaszewska-Mortimer, UN News.

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  • Ukraine: Continued use of torture, rape by Russian troops: rights experts
  • Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant situation still ‘very fragile’: Grossi
  • Chad: Sudan refugee health crisis escalates: WHO
  • Reproductive rights must be respected in crises, say experts
Audio Credit
Dominika Tomaszewska-Mortimer, UN News - Geneva
Audio Duration
4'49"
Photo Credit
Oleg Diduh