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World News in Brief: Fighting continues in DR Congo, Russian anti-war campaigner harassment, LGBTQ rights

A community worker educates displaced people on good practices to combat cholera in North Kivu, DR Congo.
© UNICEF/Jospin Benekire
A community worker educates displaced people on good practices to combat cholera in North Kivu, DR Congo.

World News in Brief: Fighting continues in DR Congo, Russian anti-war campaigner harassment, LGBTQ rights

Peace and Security

Fighting between Government forces and the M23 rebel group has flared up again in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after a brief lull, the UN Spokesperson said on Monday.

Stéphane Dujarric told correspondents at the regular press briefing in New York, that during the clashes, two rockets landed close to the UN peacekeeping base in Kimoka, about four kilometres northwest of Sake in North Kivu.

No casualties on the UN side were reported, he said.

The UN mission, MONUSCO, “remains deeply concerned by hostilities in eastern Congo and reiterates its call on the M23 to stop its offensive and to respect the Luanda Roadmap”, he added, referring to the 2022 agreement which sets out the steps needed to forge a lasting peace in eastern DRC.

Its signatories are Angola, the DRC and Rwanda.

Mr. Dujarric said MONUSCO peacekeepers continue their protection efforts in North Kivu, including holding defensive positions to keep civilians safe in Sake and the provincial capital, Goma.  

“This, despite coming under fire and being regularly targeted,” he added.

Fighting erupted earlier this month near Sake, driving nearly 144,000 people from their homes, mostly towards Goma.

Harassment of Russian anti-war campaigner

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A top rights expert on Monday condemned continued efforts by the Russian judiciary to silence anti-war dissident Orleg Orlov.

According to reports, prosecutors sought a two-year, 11-month prison sentence for Mr. Orlov, after he “repeatedly discredited” Russian armed forces involved in the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Mariana Katzarova, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Russia, insisted that the charges against him had no basis in international law.  

Ms. Katzarova, who is an independent rights expert and who reports to the Human Rights Council, also said that the case flouted Russia's obligations to create a safe environment for activists.

Mr. Orlov is co-chair of the Nobel Peace Prize winning human rights centre Memorial. In October last year, a court in Moscow fined around $1,600 after he staged several protests against Russia's ongoing military campaign in Ukraine.

UNAIDS voices concern over ‘discriminatory’ court verdict

Over to the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) expressed deep concern on Monday following a recent High Court verdict that upholds discriminatory laws against the LGBTQ community.

Of particular worry to the agency is the court’s justification, citing the protection of public health and efforts to combat the HIV epidemic, for maintaining punitive measures against the LGBTQ population.

UNAIDS emphasized that evidence indicates such laws run counter to sound public health policies or to effectively addressing the HIV crisis.

It underscored the detrimental impact of a punitive legal environment, particularly the criminalization of same-sex relationships, which drives individuals underground and away from crucial health services, including HIV prevention, testing, treatment and care.

“To achieve the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030, it is vital to ensure that everyone has equal access to essential services without fear, stigma or discrimination,” UNAIDS said.

On 16 February, the High Court rejected a claim brought by two Vincentian nationals residing outside the country.  

The claim challenged sections 146 and 148 of the Criminal Code, which criminalize “buggery” between any two persons, carrying a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.  

The court ruled that these provisions did not violate fundamental rights to privacy, personal liberty, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and protection from discrimination.

It dismissed all claims and imposed a prescribed cost of 7,500 East Caribbean dollars on each claimant, payable to the Attorney General.