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World News in Brief: 'Horrifying' attack on Ukrainian village, autonomous weapons ban, Sudan crisis

Many municipal recreation facilities like gyms, tennis courts and swimming pools have been severely damaged or destroyed in Kyiv and Kharkiv (file)..
© UNICEF/Mykola Synelnykov
Many municipal recreation facilities like gyms, tennis courts and swimming pools have been severely damaged or destroyed in Kyiv and Kharkiv (file)..

World News in Brief: 'Horrifying' attack on Ukrainian village, autonomous weapons ban, Sudan crisis

Peace and Security

The top UN humanitarian official in Ukraine has condemned a Russian strike on Thursday that ripped apart the small rural village of Hroza in the Kharkiv region, killing dozens of civilians.

“The images arriving from the locality, home to just above 300 people, are absolutely horrifying,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator Denise Brown said in a statement issued shortly after the attack.

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Speaking on behalf of the UN and the humanitarian community, she expressed condolences to the bereaved families.

“Our thoughts are also with the people of Ukraine, who had to witness today, once again, another barbaric consequence of Russia’s invasion,” she added.

Ms. Brown recalled that intentionally directing an attack against civilians or civilian objects is a war crime, as is intentionally launching an attack knowing that it would be disproportionate.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres voiced his strong condemnation of the attack, his Spokesperson said in a statement.  

"Attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited under international humanitarian law and they must stop immediately," it said.

UN and Red Cross heads urge autonomous weapons ban

Machines which can kill without a human controlling them must be prohibited by international law, UN chief António Guterres said on Thursday.

In a joint appeal with the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Mirjana Spoljaric, the leaders urged countries to establish specific prohibitions and restrictions on autonomous weapon systems “to preserve human control over the use of force” and protect humanity.

“Our concerns have only been heightened by the increasing availability and accessibility of sophisticated new and emerging technologies, such as in robotics and Artificial Intelligence technologies, that could be integrated into autonomous weapons,” Mr. Guterres and Ms. Spoljaric said.

They insisted that allowing autonomous weapons to be controlled by machine learning algorithms – “fundamentally unpredictable software which writes itself”– was unacceptable, while all other autonomous weapons needed to be subjected to clear restrictions and placed under human supervision.

The UN and Red Cross chiefs stressed that years of multilateral discussions have laid the groundwork for countries to negotiate a new, legally binding treaty by 2026. 

States ‘can and must do more’ to counter religious hatred: UN rights chief

Religious hate speech is “unfolding unchecked” on and offline, while gaps in national policy frameworks are letting it slip through the cracks, UN rights chief Volker Türk said on Thursday.

Addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Mr. Türk said that countries “can and must do more” to counter this scourge:

“Training initiatives for law enforcement officers and the judiciary, faith-based actors, teachers and media professionals in combating religious hatred need to be part of a comprehensive approach which integrates faith literacy, better understanding and sensitivity and clear measures to address discrimination.”

The UN human rights chief expressed hope that the dialogue at the Council would be a first step towards a policy “blueprint” for countries to combat religious hatred in line with international human rights law. Mr. Türk also said that his Office would also seek to involve major social media companies and look at their implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights

Human rights impacts of religious hatred have come under close scrutiny at the Council since an urgent debate on the topic and a resolution adopted in July called on States to take action, following a Quran burning in Sweden in June.

Humanitarians appeal for ‘much more’ international solidarity for Sudan

In war-torn Sudan, half of the population or almost 25 million people require humanitarian aid and protection, but there are not nearly enough funds to help them.

The UN’s top humanitarian official in the country, Clementine Nkweta-Salami, told reporters in Geneva about the consequences of the organisation’s $2.6 billion appeal for Sudan remaining just one-third funded. 

“We’re seeing high incidences of malnutrition. The health systems are struggling. We need additional resources for dialysis machines. We have a recent cholera outbreak," she said.

"Additional resources will make sure that we are able to provide the medical equipment as well as the medicines, we’re able to expand our WASH [water, sanitation and hygiene] capacity on the ground and we’re able to provide the much-needed protection for the women, children and the most vulnerable of the population.”

In addition to “much more solidarity” from the international community, Ms. Nkweta-Salami said that humanitarians need better access and safety for their operations, as well as less interference from the parties to the conflict.

She stressed that on both main routes for bringing in aid, across the border from Chad and through Port Sudan, humanitarians have to negotiate “with all armed groups” and have faced blockages and looting. 

The UN official deplored the fact that aid workers’ efforts have been hampered despite an agreement concluded in Jeddah in May where the parties committed to providing unimpeded humanitarian access.