Tuesday’s Daily Brief: Hong Kong airport disruption, Geneva Conventions at 70, new Ebola drug, French fighters in Iraq, Mediterranean migrant and Aden updates

13 August 2019

Our main stories today cover: Human rights chief on chaos at Hong Kong airport; Geneva Conventions have been ‘limiting brutality’ for 70 years; breakthrough drug in DR Congo Ebola fight; France pushed to repatriate nationals on death row in Iraq; ‘Race against time” for migrants in Mediterranean

‘Act with restraint’ UN urges Hong Kong authorities and protestors, as airport is disrupted for a second day

After two consecutive days of chaos at Hong Kong International Airport, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHRMichelle Bachelet expressed her concern and condemned “any form” of violence or destruction of property and urged demonstrators to “express their views in a peaceful way”.

The High Commissioner is “concerned by the ongoing events in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), and the escalation of violence that has taken place in recent days”, her spokesperson, Rupert Colville, told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.

“She calls on the authorities and the people of Hong Kong to engage in an open and inclusive dialogue aimed at resolving all issues peacefully”, he said.

Read our full story here.

Amidst new challenges, Geneva Conventions mark 70 years of ‘limiting brutality’ during war

In commemorating the 70th anniversary of the landmark Geneva Conventions, the current President of the Security Council hailed the “significant body of law” on Tuesday, describing it as playing “a vital role in limiting brutality of armed conflicts”.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the treaty, comprised of four Conventions and three Additional Protocols, established the modern, international legal standards for humanitarian treatment during times of war.

They were agreed on 12 August 1949, and with some exceptions, ratified by 196 countries around the world.

Here’s our coverage.

UN focused on saving lives in Aden, in face of latest fighting

Since the escalation of violence in Yemen's southern capital of Aden last week, involving separatists formerly-allied with the internationally-recognized Government, the UN said on Tuesday it will remain focused on delivering “essential life-saving programmes” to civilians in need.

More than 30 humanitarian organizations currently operate in Aden, reaching an average of 1.9 million people with food aid and over 1.6 million with access to safe water each month, said the UN Spokespersons’ office, in a statement.

According to news reports, Yemeni separatists took control of large parts of the port city at the weekend, which is the de-facto Government capital, while Houthi rebels remain in control of Sana’a.

The UN currently has more than 300 national and international staff working in Aden, and while some rotated out, more international staff are scheduled to arrive in Aden in the coming days, and rotation cycles will continue. “Humanitarian programmes are not affected by this process”, the UN said.

Aden port, which is one of the main gateways for commercial and humanitarian goods to Yemen remains operational, while the airport has also re-opened, and roads in Aden are mostly open. 

Humanitarian agencies are responding to the impact of the recent violence in Aden, while “agencies are visiting health centres to assess needs, as well as visiting neighbourhoods to identify risks of unexploded ordnance. Agencies also have 2,000 rapid response kits on standby; these kits provide basic food and hygiene supplies in emergencies.

“The UN calls on all parties to maintain the ceasefire prevailing in Aden and to engage in dialogue to resolve differences”, the statement concluded.

Breakthrough in new drug treatments to fight Ebola in DR Congo

The World Health Organization () has announced what could be a major breakthrough in the battle against Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), revealing that two out of four new drugs being tested have shown significantly improved survival rates for patients.

The research co-sponsored by WHO, shows that more than 90 per cent of infected people can survive if treated early.

On Tuesday, two people cured of Ebola using the experimental drugs in a Goma treatment centre, were allowed to go home.

WHO said in a statement that team members together with Government and NGO partners in the field, would continue to work with communities to identify cases, and “provide care as quickly as possible”, as well as continuing with the Ebola vaccination programme.

Despite the breakthrough, the year-long outbreak has killed more than 1,800 people in eastern DRC, and UN Children’s Fund UNICEF reported on Tuesday that the number of children orphaned, or left unaccompanied due to the epidemic, has more than doubled since April, requiring a rapid ramp-up in specialized care in the region.

UN expert calls for action over French nationals facing Iraq terror charges

A UN independent human rights expert has called on France to press for the return of seven of its citizens who are awaiting execution for terrorist offences in Iraq.

In a statement, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, said that there were “serious allegations that the sentences were handed down following unfair trials”.

The accused terrorists had “no adequate legal representation” or effective help from the French Government, she added, and Iraq had no standing under international law, to impose the death penalty.

Ms. Callamard said it was disturbing that France may have had a role in transferring the men to Iraq, after they had been arrested by the Syrian Democratic Forces.

She called on all countries whose citizens were facing terrorist charges in Iraq, to allow them to face justice at home, “in a manner consistent with international law.”

Allow more than 500 rescued passengers to disembark, urges UNHCR

More than 500 passengers recently rescued in the central Mediterranean, many survivors of “appalling abuses” in Libya, should be allowed to disembark by the European Union, said the UN refugee agency on Tuesday.

UNHCR Special Envoy for the region, Vincent Cochetel, said that it was a “race against time” to allow the stranded migrants and refugees off the two rescue boats, before weather conditions get worse.

He said that to leave them on the high seas in stormy weather “would be to inflict suffering on suffering”, urging that a safe port should be designated immediately “and responsibility shared amongst the States for hosting them”.

There was shock expressed last month across Europe when more than 50 died in Libya, following an airstrike on a detention centre, and as many as 150 died in the largest Mediterranean shipwreck of the year.

UNHCR said that those sentiments should now be “translated into meaningful solidarity with people fleeing Libya”.

 

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