Tag Archives: United Nations

UN amplifies condemnation of schoolgirls’ abduction.

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Matawalle noted that the visit was a further demonstration that governors and traditional rulers were working to find lasting peace in all parts of the country.

Gov. Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State has commiserated with the government and people of Zamfara over Friday’s abduction of 317 female students of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe.

Tambuwal was accompanied to Gusau on Friday by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III.

The duo expressed shock over the abduction of the students which occurred in the early hours of Friday.

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Tambuwal described the abduction as “dastardly, pathetic and an abuse to human dignity”.

He said the people of Sokoto state and indeed all other parts of the country share in the grief, noting that the people perpetrating these unfortunate acts should be ashamed of themselves.

On his part, the Sultan, who was returning to Sokoto from the Northern Governors Security meeting in Kaduna along with Tambuwal, prayed to God to make all criminals better citizens in the country.

Abubakar III urged the bandits to always have the fear of God in their ways of life.

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Responding, Gov. Bello Matawalle thanked them for their concern and brotherliness over the sad incident recorded in the state.

Matawalle noted that the visit was a further demonstration that governors and traditional rulers were working to find lasting peace in all parts of the country.

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#Newsworthy

Iran to host UN Chief ahead sanctions deadline.

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The former president withdrew from the nuclear accord in 2018, while Iran started the next year to suspend its compliance with most key nuclear commitments in response.

UN nuclear watchdog head Rafael Grossi was to open talks Saturday in Iran on the eve of Tehran’s deadline for US sanctions to be lifted, as President Joe Biden called for “careful diplomacy”.

The deadline, set by Iranian lawmakers, carries the threat of a suspension of some nuclear inspections, stoking international concern about a possible expulsion of UN inspectors.

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But Iran has stressed it will not cease working with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or expel its inspectors.

Iran and the IAEA have yet to release details on the visit by the UN body’s chief Grossi that runs into Sunday.

He will “meet with senior Iranian officials to find a mutually agreeable solution, compatible with Iranian law, so that the @iaeaorg can continue essential verification activities in Iran”, Grossi wrote Friday on Twitter.

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“Looking forward to success – this is in everybody’s interest,” he added.

Iran has notified the IAEA that it will suspend “voluntary transparency measures”, notably inspection visits to non-nuclear sites, including military sites suspected of nuclear-related activity, if the United States has not lifted the sweeping sanctions former president Donald Trump reimposed in 2018.

The new measures are to go into effect on Tuesday.

Iran’s atomic body spokesman Behrouz Kamalvandi said last week that talks with Grossi will focus on how to cease “voluntary actions beyond safeguard (measures) and how to continue cooperation”.

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‘Diplomatic back-and-forth’

The visit comes in the wake of Biden’s call on Friday for European powers to work together to curb Iran’s “destabilising” activities, a day after committing to rejoin talks on Tehran’s nuclear programme.

Biden told the Munich Security Conference that the United States would work closely with allies in dealing with Iran after his predecessor Trump took an aggressive unilateral approach.

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“The threat of nuclear proliferation also continues to require careful diplomacy and cooperation among us,” Biden told fellow leaders via teleconference.

“That’s why we have said we’re prepared to reengage in negotiations with the P5+1 on Iran’s nuclear program,” he said, referring to the five UN Security Council permanent members and Germany.

Tehran has repeatedly said it is ready to return to its nuclear commitments on condition that Washington does so first by lifting the sanctions reimposed by Trump that have dealt a heavy blow to Iran’s economy.

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Following an offer for talks by the Biden administration, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted Friday that Iran would “immediately reverse” its retaliatory measures if the US lifts “all sanctions imposed, re-imposed or re-labelled by Trump”.

The former president withdrew from the nuclear accord in 2018, while Iran started the next year to suspend its compliance with most key nuclear commitments in response.

In an opening gesture, the Biden administration has dropped a push for more sanctions crafted by Trump, and removed restrictions on Iranian diplomats accredited to the United Nations in New York.

Iran’s government spokesman Ali Rabiei on Saturday stressed that Tehran’s latest nuclear move will not prevent it from responding to any US show of goodwill, and expressed optimism regarding the ongoing diplomatic process.

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It is “neither against our (deal) commitments nor an obstacle for proportionate and appropriate response to any US action to prove (its) goodwill,” he wrote in an op-ed on Iran daily.

“We can confidently predict that diplomatic initiatives will work well (to achieve) the desired outcome, despite diplomatic back-and-forths, which are the natural prelude to the return of all sides to commitments including the lifting of all sanctions in the near future,” he added.

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#Newsworthy

Myanmar under pressure at UN as protest boils.

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Some of the demonstrators were briefly hospitalised, while nine were taken into custody. They were later freed after a crowd mobbed a police station and demanded their release.

Opponents of Myanmar’s military coup sustained mass protests for an eighth straight day on Saturday as continuing arrests of junta critics added to anger over the detention of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Thousands assembled in the business hub, Yangon, while protesters took to the streets of the capital Naypyitaw, the second city Mandalay and other towns a day after the biggest protests so far in the Southeast Asian country.

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“Stop kidnapping at night,” was among the signs held up by protesters in Yangon in response to arrest raids in recent days.

Among those who were arrested was a doctor identified on social media as Pyae Phyo Naing, who was doing patient consultations in Ayeyarwaddy district, when the raid was carried on Thursday. A video of his arrest shared on social media fuelled anger among residents.

Internet memes captioned “Our nights aren’t safe anymore” and “Myanmar military is kidnapping people at night” have circulated widely on social media.

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The government did not respond to requests for comment on the arrests.

Adding pressure to the military is the demand of the UN Human Rights Council for the military to restore civilian rule and release the country’s civilian leaders.

During a rare special session on Friday requested by the United Kingdom and the European Union, the council adopted a resolution calling for all persons “arbitrarily detained” to be released and the “restoration of the elected government”.

“The world is watching,” the UN’s deputy rights chief Nada al-Nashif at the start of the session.

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Besides Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, more than 350 others have been detained since the February 1 putsch, including activists, journalists, students and monks, al-Nashif said.

In addition, “draconian orders have been issued this week to prevent peaceful assembly and free expression,” she said, decrying the “indiscriminate use of lethal or less-than-lethal weapons”.

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But traditional allies of Myanmar’s military, including Russia and China, slammed the emergency session as interference in “Myanmar’s internal affairs”.

‘Fight until victory’
With teachers, bureaucrats and air traffic controllers among the government employees walking off the job this week to demand an end to military rule, the new military leader Min Aung Hlaing told striking workers to return to their offices.

But hundreds of thousands still came out Friday in nationwide rallies – the seventh straight day of protests – demanding the country’s generals relinquish power.

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Many of the protesters stayed well into the night in Yangon, defying the curfew imposed by the military.

Besides Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, more than 350 others have been detained since the February 1 putsch, including activists, journalists, students and monks [Stringer/EPA]

In Pazundaung and Sanchaung districts of the country’s largest city, people spilled out into the streets searching for the police, after reports that a local medical official has been arrested.

There have also been reports on social media of authorities snatching protesters from the streets.

Demonstrations have so far largely been peaceful, though this week saw police deploy tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets against protesters.

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Live rounds were fired at a rally in Naypyidaw on Tuesday, critically wounding two people – including a woman who was shot in the head.

On Friday, in the port city of Mawlamyine, police fired rubber bullets on students while dispersing a sit-down protest.

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Some of the demonstrators were briefly hospitalised, while nine were taken into custody. They were later freed after a crowd mobbed a police station and demanded their release.

Prison amnesty
Earlier in the day, state media announced the release of more than 23,000 inmates as part of a prison amnesty – a mass clearing of the country’s jails as authorities step up a crackdown on striking workers.

In the Irrawaddy Delta, home to much of Myanmar’s rice crop, police stormed a medical clinic and detained a doctor who had been supporting the civil disobedience campaign as he was treating a patient.

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“He was in the middle of putting stitches in his patient’s head,” the wife of Pyae Phyo Naing, 38, told the AFP news agency on Friday, a day after footage of the arrest went viral on social media.

“Without giving a reason, they took him,” wife Phyu Lae Thu said, crying.

“I want to urge those who are [protesting], please continue … fight until the victory and help him be released.”

News of the incident did not deter other medical workers from taking part in another day of massive rallies in commercial hub Yangon.

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“Whatever pressure comes from the army chief, we will not pay attention,” said Wai Yan Phyo, a doctor.

Internet crackdown
The coup has united disparate strands of society in opposition, with some reports of police officers breaking ranks to join demonstrations alongside celebrities, students and garment workers.

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They have called for the military government to respect the results of November’s elections, which saw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party win in a landslide.

The military justified its takeover with claims of widespread voter fraud, though local and international monitors said there were no major issues that could have changed the poll’s outcome.

Min Aung Hlaing’s government has moved quickly to stack courts and political offices with loyalists after bringing the country’s decade-old democracy to a sudden end.

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The military appeared to also be preparing a wider clampdown on internet freedoms – already, the military government has blocked Myanmar’s access to Twitter and Facebook.

A draft cybersecurity bill – which grants the government power to order internet blackouts and website bans — has raised alarm tech giants, civil society groups and even the private sector.

It “violates the basic principles of digital rights, privacy and other human rights”, said a letter released late Friday signed by 50 private companies.

The military government has weathered a chorus of international condemnation.

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In the most significant concrete action, the US announced sanctions this week against the military government’s top generals, warning that additional action would be taken if they do not “change course”

Aung San Suu Kyi has not been seen since she was detained on February 1.

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#Newsworthy

Breaking: UN demand Aung San Suu Kyi release.

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UN officials and diplomats alike voiced alarm at the assault on democracy in the country and violence against protesters.

The top United Nations human rights body has called on Myanmar to release Aung San Suu Kyi and other officials and to refrain from using violence on people protesting against the military coup.

The 47-member Geneva forum adopted a resolution brought by Britain and the European Union (EU) unanimously without a vote, although Russia and China said afterwards that they “disassociated” themselves from the consensus.

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Myanmar’s envoy said before the vote that the resolution was “not acceptable”.

The resolution was adopted after the UN human rights investigator for Myanmar urged the UN Security Council to consider imposing punitive sanctions, arms embargoes and travel bans in response to the coup.

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The United States, which imposed its own sanctions on Thursday, urged other UN member states to follow suit, in its first remarks to the Human Rights Council since returning to the forum this week.

Special rapporteur Thomas Andrews said there were “growing reports and photographic evidence” that Myanmar security forces had used live ammunition against protesters since seizing power almost two weeks ago.

“Security Council resolutions dealing with similar situations have mandated sanctions, arms embargoes, and travel bans, and calling for judicial action at the International Criminal Court or ad hoc tribunals,” he told the council.

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“All of these options should be on the table.”

The 47-member forum met at the request of Britain and the European Union to consider a resolution calling for the release of ousted Myanmar leader Suu Kyi, and for UN monitors to be allowed to visit. It was adopted unanimously, although Myanmar, Russia and China envoys said they “disassociated” themselves from the resolution.

Demonstrators protest in front of the Russian embassy against the military coup and demand for the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Yangon, Myanmar [Reuters]

“With this resolution we would like to send a strong signal to the people of Myanmar: the protection of their human rights matters to us,” said Austrian Ambassador Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger on behalf of the EU.

However, the resolution’s language had been watered down somewhat in an apparent bid to get detractors on board.

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In a letter read out to the Council earlier on Friday, some 300 elected parliamentarians called for UN investigations into the “gross human rights violations” that they said the military had committed since its coup, including arrests.

‘Draconian orders’
Supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi clashed with police on Friday as hundreds of thousands joined pro-democracy demonstrations across Myanmar in defiance of the military’s call to halt mass gatherings.

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The UN’s deputy rights chief Nada al-Nashif decried the detention of the country’s elected civilian leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, and of more than 350 others, including officials, activists, journalists, monks and students.

UN officials and diplomats alike voiced alarm at the assault on democracy in the country and violence against protesters.

“The world is watching,” al-Nashif said. “Let us be clear: the indiscriminate use of lethal or less-than-lethal weapons against peaceful protesters is unacceptable.”

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In addition, she lamented, “draconian orders have been issued this week to prevent peaceful assembly and free expression”.

Min Aung Hlaing, the head of Myanmar’s army, known as Tatmadaw, has justified his coup by alleging widespread voter fraud during November’s election.

Myanmar ambassador to the UN in Geneva Myint Thu said Myanmar would continue to cooperate with the United Nations and uphold international human rights treaties, adding: “We do not want to stall the nascent democratic transition in the country.”

The United States, which only re-engaged with the council this week after former president Donald Trump withdrew in 2018, also harshly condemned the coup.

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US diplomat Mark Cassayre said all those “unjustly detained” should be released, and called for “accountability for those responsible for the coup, including through targeted sanctions”.

US President Joe Biden announced this week that his administration was cutting off the military’s access to $1bn in funds, with sanctions targeting Min Aung Hlaing and other top generals.

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#Newsworthy

Yemen: Al-Qaeda’s leader upon UN arrest lies appear in video.

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AQAP claimed responsibility for the 2019 mass shooting at a US naval base in Florida, in which a Saudi air force officer killed three American sailors.

The leader of Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen appears to be still at large despite a United Nations report which claimed he had been under arrest for months, the SITE Intelligence Group and two local tribal leaders said Thursday after he was seen in a video released by the jihadist group.

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Khalid Batarfi, who has been the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) for about a year, talks about the storming of the US Congress last month in the video, which came out Wednesday.

The video, which opens with footage of the January 6 assault by Donald Trump supporters, belies reports that Batarfi was under arrest, said SITE, which monitors extremist organisations.

In the 20-minute video titled “America and the Painful Seizure”, Batarfi says “storming the Congress is only the tip of the iceberg of what will come to them, God willing”.

A report filed to the UN Security Council last week claimed Batarfi was arrested and his deputy, Saad Atef al-Awlaqi, killed during an “operation in Ghayda City, Al-Mahrah governorate, in October”.

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Two local tribal leaders in the Al-Bayda governorate in central Yemen, where AQAP is active, told AFP there was a high probability the person arrested was not Batarfi but another member of the jihadist group.

“Most probably, he wasn’t arrested, and the one who was arrested was another senior leader in the group,” one of the tribal leaders said.

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The UN report, which summarised global potential jihadist threats, did not disclose his whereabouts or reveal any further details of the October operation.

‘Global terrorist’
AQAP revealed it had appointed Batarfi, believed to be in his early 40s, as its leader in February 2020 following the death of his predecessor Qassim al-Rimi in a US air strike in Yemen.

(FILES) In this file image grab taken on June 16, 2015 from a video released by Al-Malahem Media, the media arm of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), shows Khalid Omar Batarfi (also known as Abu Meqdad al-Kindi) a spokesman for AQAP announcing in a video posted online, the death of its leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi, number two in the global jihadist organisation, in a US drone strike. – The leader of Al-Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate has been under arrest for several months, according to a United Nations report released on February 4, 2021, in what will be seen as a huge breakthrough in the fight against the global jihadist threat. The document said Khalid Batarfi, was arrested and his deputy, Saad Atef al-Awlaqi, died during an “operation in Ghayda City, in Yemen’s al-Mahrah Governorate, in October.” (Photo by – / AL-MALAHEM MEDIA / AFP)

Batarfi, who was designated a global terrorist by the US State Department in 2018, has appeared in numerous AQAP videos over recent years, according to SITE, and appeared to have been Rimi’s deputy and group spokesman.

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Washington considers AQAP to be the worldwide jihadist network’s most dangerous branch, and has waged a long-running drone war against the leaders of the group.

AQAP claimed responsibility for the 2019 mass shooting at a US naval base in Florida, in which a Saudi air force officer killed three American sailors.

The Sunni extremist group thrived in the chaos of years of civil war between Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

AQAP has carried out operations against both the Huthis and government forces as well as sporadic attacks abroad, including on the offices of the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo in 2015.

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Analysts say its abilities on the ground have dwindled, although it still inspires attacks carried out by “lone wolf” jihadists or former operatives.

Yemen has been wracked by conflict since 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition intervened after the Huthis seized control of the capital Sanaa.

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#Newsworthy

Just in: Iran resumed missiles collaboration with North Korea in 2020 – UN.

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The report’s experts monitor the multiple sanctions imposed on Pyongyang to attempt to force it to suspend its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.

North Korea and Iran resumed cooperation on the development of long-range missiles in 2020, according to a UN report that also confirmed Pyongyang continues to violate various nuclear resolutions.

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The annual report, produced by an independent panel of UN experts, was submitted to the Security Council on Monday and seen by AFP.

It said Tehran denies any such missile cooperation with North Korea.

But according to an unnamed member state, North Korea and Iran “have resumed cooperation on long-range missile development projects,” the report states.

This picture taken on February 8, 2021 and released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on February 9 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attending the first day of the 2nd plenary meeting of the 8th Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) in North Korea. (Photo by STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP) / – South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT /

“This resumed cooperation is said to have included the transfer of critical parts, with the most recent shipment associated with this relationship taking place in 2020.”

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The report’s experts monitor the multiple sanctions imposed on Pyongyang to attempt to force it to suspend its nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.

In a December 21 reply, Iran stated the “preliminary review of the information provided to us by the (experts) indicates that false information and fabricated data may have been used in investigations and analyses.”

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In their assessment of North Korea, the experts said Pyongyang “maintained and developed its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.”

Pyongyang last year announced preparation for testing and production of new ballistic missile warheads and development of tactical nuclear weapons.

“It produced fissile material, maintained nuclear facilities and upgraded its ballistic missile infrastructure. It continued to seek material and technology for these programs from overseas,” the expert report states.

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The experts also investigated cases in which North Korea acquired ships, sold fishing rights and continued to export coal in violation of sanctions.

North Korea’s border closure due to the pandemic may have hampered those shipments, however.

The experts also found that North Korea had continued to import more refined petroleum than is allowed under its 500,000-barrel limit, sometimes by using “elaborate subterfuge.”

“According to imagery, data and calculations received from a member state covering the period 1 January to 30 September, in 2020 these illicit shipments exceeded the annual aggregate 500,000-barrel cap by several times,” the report states.

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Last year, like the year before, the US presented satellite imagery and data to show North Korea was surpassing its quotas.

China and Russia, North Korea’s main supporters, have rejected the US claims and say petroleum imports are much smaller.

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#Newsworthy

Ethiopia strikes deal with United Nations to allow aid workers access Tigray.

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UN refugees chief Filippo Grandi stressed the need for a more efficient system of facilitating access for aid workers and distributing aid.

The United Nations’ food agency says it has reached a deal with Ethiopia to expand access for aid workers and “scale up” operations in the country’s conflict-hit Tigray region.

David Beasley, the head of the World Food Programme (WFP), made the announcement late on Saturday amid growing fears of a humanitarian catastrophe in Tigray, a region of more than five million people.

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on November 4 ordered air raids and a ground offensive against Tigray’s former governing party – the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – after its forces attacked federal army bases in the northern region. Abiy declared victory on November 28 after the TPLF withdrew from the regional capital, Mekelle, and other main cities, but low-level fighting has continued.

Thousands of people are believed to have died and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes since fighting began. Both sides deny their forces have committed atrocities, and blame their rivals for the killing of civilians.

Top UN officials and international NGOs have repeatedly complained about access restrictions to Tigray.

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The government and the WFP “have agreed on concrete steps to expand access for humanitarians across Tigray, and WFP will scale up its operations”, Beasley said on Twitter following a visit to the Mekelle.

“Nearly 3 million people need our help NOW and we have no time to waste,” he added.

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A WFP statement said Ethiopian officials had agreed to speed up reviews of aid workers’ requests to move within the embattled region.

The WFP’s statement also said the agreement had agreed to government requests to provide emergency food aid to one million people in Tigray and help with transport to hard-to-reach rural areas.

Ethiopian Peace Minister Muferihat Kamil said in a separate statement the government was “moving with urgency to approve requests for international staff movements into and within Tigray”.

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The new terms fall “under the existing agreement” between the government and the UN on aid, according to the WFP statement.

That agreement restricted UN access to areas under government control. In early December, a UN team visiting refugees in Tigray region was shot at after failing to stop at two checkpoints, according to the government.

But a senior UN official told the AFP news agency the progress was nevertheless “significant” and would facilitate access deeper into Tigray.

“It’s not good enough to just stick to the safe routes, the secure routes,” the official said. “Our role is to be determined to get to where the last person in need is, and the presence of militias should not really hamper us.”

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The WFP statement noted that “armed escorts for humanitarian cargo and personnel will be undertaken as a last resort”.

The conflict has displaced tens of thousands of people [Ashraf Shazly/AFP]

Tigray remains largely cut off to media, making it difficult to assess the situation on the ground.

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The UN official noted that “insecure areas [are] were “many and significant”.

A new UN report earlier this month said life for civilians in Tigray has become “extremely alarming” amid growing hunger and a “volatile and unpredictable” security situation.

“Reports from aid workers on the ground indicate a rising in acute malnutrition across the region,” it said, according to The Associated Press news agency. “Only 1 percent of the nearly 920 nutrition treatment facilities in Tigray are reachable.”

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Starvation has also become a big concern. “Many households are expected to have already depleted their food stocks, or are expected to deplete their food stocks in the next two months,” according to a new report posted on Thursday by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network, which is funded and managed by the United States.

The report said more parts of central and eastern Tigray likely will enter Emergency Phase 4, a step below famine, in the coming weeks.

The government has played down fears of widespread starvation while touting its own efforts to meet the needs of the population. It says it has provided emergency food aid to 1.8 million people.

During a visit to Ethiopia last week, UN refugees chief Filippo Grandi stressed the need for a more efficient system of facilitating access for aid workers and distributing aid.

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“We heard from everywhere, including from the local authorities, that more is needed” beyond what the government is providing, Grandi said.

“The situation as I said is very grave, is very urgent. Without further action, it will get worse.”

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#Newsworthy

United Nations order Bangladesh army probe after Media’s investigation.

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The contract, dated June 2018, was signed by the Directorate General Defense Purchase, the body charged with buying Bangladesh’s military supplies.

The United Nations is calling for a full investigation into evidence of corruption and illegality involving the Bangladesh army, which was exposed during an investigation released by NoRM‘s known Media on Monday.

The corruption involves Bangladesh’s Chief of Army Staff, General Aziz Ahmed, who is due to meet senior UN officials in New York next week.

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In All the Prime Minister’s Men, NoRM‘s known Media’s Investigative Unit revealed that Bangladesh’s military purchased sophisticated and highly intrusive mobile phone surveillance equipment from Israel, which Bangladesh military commanders claimed was “for one of the Army Contingents due to be deployed in the UN Peacekeeping Mission”.

A spokesperson for the UN said that this was not the case and that its peacekeepers do not operate “electronic equipment of the nature described in the NoRM‘s known Media reporting”.

“Such equipment has not been deployed with Bangladeshi contingents in United Nations peacekeeping operations,” the UN spokesperson told NoRM‘s known Media.

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“We are aware of the reporting by NoRM‘s known Media Investigations concerning allegations of corruption against senior officials in Bangladesh and the press release issued by the Ministry of Defence of Bangladesh. The allegation of corruption is a serious matter that should be investigated by the relevant authorities.

Bangladesh is the largest overall contributor of uniformed personnel to UN Peacekeeping missions, with more than 6,800 presently deployed in peacekeeping operations around the world.

IMSI-catchers
The surveillance equipment is called an “international mobile subscriber identity-catcher”, or IMSI-catcher. It is a tool that emulates cell towers to trick cellular devices into providing locations and data that is then captured by the device.

It can be used to track hundreds of attendees of demonstrations simultaneously, among other things.

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The Bangladesh army said that the equipment was made in Hungary and not Israel, which the Muslim-majority country does not recognise.

The NoRM‘s known Media obtained the contract for the purchase, which deliberately concealed the fact that the manufacturer, PicSix, is an Israeli company. PicSix was set up by former Israeli intelligence agents and sent two experts to Hungary to train officers from the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI), Bangladesh’ military intelligence service, on how to operate the equipment.

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The contract, dated June 2018, was signed by the Directorate General Defense Purchase, the body charged with buying Bangladesh’s military supplies. The manufacturer was said to be PicSix Hungary, an entity that does not exist according to Hungarian company filings.

NoRM‘s known Media obtained covert recordings of a middleman, James Moloney, admitting the IMSI-catcher was Israeli made. Moloney, an Irish national, owns a company called Sovereign Systems, which is registered in Singapore, though he, himself is based in Bangkok.
Moloney is recorded saying that Sovereign Systems was a front for Picsix’s business in Asia. He also admitted that the surveillance technology is “from Israel, so we don’t advertise that technology. We are very careful about our public profile.

“I could never say the Bangladesh army is my customer. We cannot do that,” he added.

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He described the technology as “very aggressive and intrusive. You don’t want the public to know that you’re using that equipment.”

General Aziz Ahmed visits UN peacekeepers [Bangladesh Army website]

Human rights violations
According to Eliot Bendinelli from Privacy International, a UK-based privacy watchdog, authorities can use it to collect information on people taking part in demonstrations.

“You are looking at everybody who is in the area and so you can keep investigating and having more people under surveillance at the same time,” Bendinelli said.

Bendinelli added, “If you know what people are saying, where they are going to meet up, what they are planning to do, you can know a lot of things. And then you have the power to act.”

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Eitay Mack, an Israeli human rights lawyer, told NoRM‘s known Media that the Israeli government does not scrutinise the human rights records of end-users. “For a country like Bangladesh, if they buy this equipment from the US or European Union, they have leverage on you when you use it for human rights violations and they might cancel the agreement,” he said.

“With Israel, it’s not like that, they don’t ask questions. They don’t care,” Mack said.

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The knowledge that Israeli-made spyware could be used by Bangladesh to monitor opposition groups will spark further unease in a nation accused of multiple human rights violations.

According to Amnesty International, the government is involved in “unlawful killings and disappearances, arbitrary arrest and detention, and torture”.

All the Prime Minister’s Men
Months of undercover reporting revealed that the head of the army, General Aziz Ahmed, is aiding two of his brothers to escape prison sentences for murder, and that he ordered officers to help create a false identity for one who fled to Europe.

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Aziz moved his fugitive brother, Haris Ahmed, to Hungary where he operates under the false identity, buying companies and property using kickbacks from military contracts and running extortion rackets with Bangladesh security forces. A second fugitive brother was in hiding in Malaysia.

General Ahmed is currently on a diplomatic visit to the United States where will meet UN officials to discuss Bangladesh’s current deployment of more than 6,000 troops for the UN in countries like Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Liberia and Burundi. Aziz is due to meet the under-secretary-general for peace operations and other senior UN officials involved in peacekeeping operations.

The call for an inquiry by the UN will be a serious blow for the Bangladesh military.

The UN, whose military personnel are known as the Blue Helmets, spends nearly $7bn annually on its peacekeeping missions.

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Bangladesh’s deployment generates significant funds for the Bangladeshi army and is prized as a mark of their international standing as a professional military force.

The concern expressed by the UN will put the Bangladesh Ministry of Defence under mounting pressure to defend General Aziz who has so far not commented himself on the investigation. The Bangladesh army public relations office described the investigation as “concocted and ill-intended”.

Story Source: Al Jazeera

@newsworthywriter

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#Newsworthy

United Nations preaches ‘end of meat’ to escape COVID-19.

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UNEP warned that if ecosystems are continually destroyed, the population’s food supply will be endangered.

It has now been revealed that eating less meat can help reduce the risk of coronavirus and save the environment.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) gave the advice while announcing a new Chatham House report on Wednesday.

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Speaking on the report, Philip Lymbery of Compassion in World Farming, called for caution by humans.

“At a time when so much of the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s never been more obvious that the well-being of people and animals, wild and farmed, are intertwined,” he said.

UNEP warned that if ecosystems are continually destroyed, the population’s food supply will be endangered.

The document called for a shift to plant-based foods and protection of lands.

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Renowned primatologist, Jane Goodall said intensive farming of billions of animals globally damages the environment.

She stressed that this causes “loss of biodiversity, producing massive greenhouse gas emissions that accelerate global warming”.

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#Newsworthy

United Nations ‘still hopes for humanitarian access’ to Tigray.

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Western powers have argued that the influx of refugees into neighbouring Sudan was a humanitarian crisis requiring international intervention.

Every member of the UN Security Council called for increased aid during a closed-door meeting Wednesday to discuss the humanitarian situation in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, according to diplomats.

The meeting had been requested by Ireland, Estonia, France, Norway, Britain and the United States.

“Everyone said there should be more humanitarian access,” one diplomat said under condition of anonymity, though no official statement was released after the discussions.

There was never meant to be a declaration passed, according to the same diplomat, though another said the idea was abandoned because African members of the council had said they would refuse to vote for one, deeming it unproductive.

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Meetings on the situation in Tigray have been few and far between since the Ethiopian military operation began in November, with African countries, in particular, preferring to treat the conflict as a domestic matter.

But Western powers have argued that the influx of refugees into neighbouring Sudan was a humanitarian crisis requiring international intervention.

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The Security Council also failed to produce a declaration after other closed-door meetings on November 24 and December 14.

Youngsters play in front of a damaged truck belonging to the Ethiopian Defense Forces in the village of Bisober, in Ethiopia’s Tigray region on December 9, 2020. – Tigrayan forces settled in the school several months ago. The November 14 killings represent just one incident of civilian suffering in Bisober, a farming village home to roughly 2,000 people in southern Tigray. In retrospect, Bisober residents say, the first sign of the conflict came seven months ago, when members of the Tigray Special Forces took over the village elementary school, which had been emptied because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by EDUARDO SOTERAS / AFP)

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in Mid-December announced two deals with Ethiopian authorities that should have allowed access to the country.

But opportunities to deliver aid remain fragile, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday.

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“Very little is being allowed in,” he said.

“What we need is to be able to just get in there in an unfettered manner without having to, I guess, negotiate for every truck, for every box.”

“We work cooperatively with the government, and it’s their country … we have to go through them, and that’s the way it should be,” Dujarric said.

“But there is a grave humanitarian need in Tigray, and at this point, we’re not able to reach the people that need to be reached.”

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High-level UN figures visited Ethiopia this week, including the high commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi and UN undersecretary-general Gilles Michaud — while a visit from World Food Program chief David Beasley is expected in the coming days, according to diplomats — to try to gain access to refugee camps.

Akshaya Kumar of the NGO Human Rights Watch said: “The Security Council should hold a public session followed by a strong resolution demanding an end to aid obstruction and immediate investigation of war crimes” in Ethiopia.

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#Newsworthy

Baghdad Court order Trump’s arrest after being permanently suspended

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Invoking it would require Vice President Michael Pence to lead the cabinet in a vote on removing him.

A Baghdad court has issued a warrant for the arrest of the President of the United States of America, Donald Trump, as part of its investigation into the killing of a top Iraqi paramilitary commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

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Al-Muhandis, who was the Deputy Head of Iraq’s largely pro-Iran Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary network, was killed in the same US drone strike that took out Iranian general Qasem Soleimani at Baghdad airport on January 3 last year.

Trump, who ordered the strike, subsequently boasted that it had taken out “two (men) for the price of one”.

The UN special rapporteur for an extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, has called the twin killings as “arbitrary” and “illegal”.

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Iran already issued a warrant for the arrest of Trump in June and asked Interpol to relay it as a so-called red notice to other police forces around the world.

The court for east Baghdad has now issued the warrant for Trump’s arrest under Article 406 of the penal code, which provides for the death penalty in all cases of premeditated murder, the judiciary said.

The court said the preliminary inquiry had been completed but “investigations are continuing to unmask the other culprits in this crime, be they Iraqis or foreigners.”

Meanwhile, some members of President Donald Trump’s cabinet on Wednesday opened discussion on the possibility of removing Trump from office after his supporters stormed the Capitol, according to reports by three US news channels.

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The discussions focused on the 25th amendment to the US Constitution, which allows for a president’s removal by the vice president and cabinet if he is judged “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

NoRM quoted undisclosed Republican leaders saying the 25th amendment had been discussed, saying they had described Trump as “out of control.”

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#Newsworthy

COVID-19: European Union approves first ever vaccine

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The European Medicines Agency recommended the vaccine developed by US pharma giant Pfizer and German firm BioNTech for use, and the European Commission formally approved it hours later.

The EU finally gave the green light for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Monday, paving the way for the first inoculations to start across 27 countries just days after Christmas.

The decision was rushed through under pressure from European governments after Britain and the United States authorised the jab weeks earlier.

The European Medicines Agency recommended the vaccine developed by US pharma giant Pfizer and German firm BioNTech for use, and the European Commission formally approved it hours later.

The EMA added that the vaccine would “very likely” be effective against a new strain of the disease spreading through Britain.

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European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said vaccinations would start across the EU on December 27, adding that the vaccine was a “true European success story”.

“This is a very good way to end this difficult year and finally start turning the page on Covid-19,” von der Leyen said in Brussels.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said the decision allowed a “road out of the crisis” while Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said the EMA decision “is the news we have been waiting for”.

‘Historic scientific achievement’
The Amsterdam-based EMA, the drugs watchdog for the 27-nation EU, had moved the decision forward from December 29 under pressure from EU governments, particularly Berlin.

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“It is a significant step forward in the fight against this pandemic that is causing suffering and hardship,” EMA chief Emer Cooke told an online press conference as she announced the decision to recommend the vaccine.

“This is really a historic scientific achievement, within less than a year a vaccine will have been developed and authorised against this disease.”

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The urgency surrounding the virus has increased with the news that a fast-spreading variant is sweeping Britain, prompting a growing number of countries worldwide to suspend flights from the UK.

But EMA officials said they believed the Pfizer-BioNTech jab would be effective against it.

“At this moment there is no evidence to suggest this vaccine will not work against the new variant,” Cooke said.

The EMA’s head of vaccine strategy, Marco Cavaleri, added that while they were waiting for more data “for the time being we are not too worried”.

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“It is very likely that the vaccine will retain protection also against this new variant,” he said.

“What would scare us is if we see multiple mutations”, particularly on the “spike” that the virus uses to enter human cells, but those had not been seen yet, Cavaleri added.

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‘Cause for concern’
The EMA said it took longer than Britain — the former home of the agency — and the US because they used a special, short-term emergency authorisation.

The “conditional marketing authorisation” issued on Monday however lasts for one year and required more rigorous testing, it said.

The EMA also had to contend with a cyberattack in which data from the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines was stolen.

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Cooke said the agency had “worked night and day” to speed things up, but needed to make sure the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was safe and effective, in order to avoid any doubts that could affect uptake.

“We know very well that the speed at which these vaccines were developed and authorised is a cause of concern for many Europeans,” said Harald Enzmann, chairman of the EMA committee that took the final decision.

But he said the authorisation followed “one of the largest trials we have ever evaluated for a vaccine” and that it “met the standards for robustness and quality that we have set out”.

The authorisation is for over-16s only and says that the vaccine should be given to pregnant women on a case by case basis, the EMA said.

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Following a “small number” of reports of allergic reactions in Britain and the United States, the EMA had recommended that people should be kept under “close observation” for 15 minutes after vaccination.

A European decision on another vaccine, produced by US firm Moderna, is due by January 6.

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#Newsworthy

United Nations make U-turn on Borno Massacre death claims

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The armed men are suspected to be members of the terrorist group Boko Haram.

The United Nations (UN) has retracted its initial casualty figure of farmers killed in Borno state during an attack on Zabarmari community in Jere local government area of the state.

UN said the “gruesome” massacre against farmers killed “tens of people”, amending an earlier statement putting the death toll at 110.

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Eve Sabbagh, UN’s head of public information in Nigeria, said the “110 casualty figure” was not properly sourced.

The killings took place in the early afternoon of Saturday in the village of Koshobe and other rural communities in the Jere local government area.

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“Armed men on motorcycles led a brutal attack on civilian men and women who were harvesting their fields,” Edward Kallon, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, said in the statement.

“Tens of civilians were ruthlessly killed and many others were wounded in this attack,” he added.

According to Babagana Zulum, governor of the state, 43 residents were buried on Sunday while the government is still trying to retrieve some other corpses.

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Zulum described people facing desperate choices.

“In one side, they stay at home they may be killed by hunger and starvation; on the other, they go out to their farmlands and risk getting killed by the insurgents,” he said.

But a presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said the farmers did not get a military clearance before resuming farming activities in the area.

Shehu who spoke to NoRM‘s known Media said the government was sad about the tragic incident, but added that the “people need to understand what it is like in the Lake Chad Basin area.”

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“The truth has to be said. Was there any military clearance from the military who are in total control of the area?” Shehu queried. “Did anybody ask to resume activity?”

He added that he had been briefed by military authorities that the villagers did not seek military advice before exposing themselves to “a window that the terrorists have exploited.”

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#Newsworthy

Just in: UN SG frowns at Borno massacre by Boko Haram. [Nigeria]

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Guterres reacted to the massacre in a statement by his spokesperson Mr Stéphane Dujarric, in New York on Monday.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has condemned “in the strongest terms” Saturday’s killing of 43 farmers by suspected Boko Haram terrorists in Borno.

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Reports say many others, including women were kidnapped in the attack on rice farmers in Koshobe village near Maiduguri, the state capital.

In what President Muhammadu Buhari tagged as “insane’’, the attackers reportedly tied up the victims before slitting their throats.

Describing the attack as “horrific”, the UN Chief said he hoped those responsible for “these heinous crimes” would be quickly brought to justice.

The statement said: “The Secretary-General extends his deepest condolences to the families of the deceased and to the people of Nigeria.

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“He wishes a swift recovery to the injured and calls for the immediate and safe return of the abductees and those still reported missing.

“The Secretary-General reaffirms the commitment of the UN to support the Government of Nigeria in its fight against terrorism and violent extremism and in its response to pressing humanitarian needs in the northeast of the country.”

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#Newsworthy

Iran slams United Nations over protests anniversary.

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Amnesty International said at the time it had obtained evidence showing at least 304 people, including children, were killed during the protests and thousands were arrested.

Roughly one year after protests over economic hardship broke out across Iran, officials have condemned a United Nations resolution that among other things calls for upholding human rights of people involved in the protests.

Last week, the third committee of the UN General Assembly, which deals with human rights, adopted a resolution put forward by Canada.

The resolution welcomed some progress and continued efforts by Iranian authorities.

But it also expressed “serious concern” about executions for drug-related crimes and against minors, and urged Iran to ensure humane treatment of prisoners and cease “widespread and systematic use of arbitrary arrests and detention”.

The resolution further called for the release of prisoners arrested during the protests of November 2019 and said Iran should address the “poor conditions of its prisons”.

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In response, Iran earlier this week summoned the Italian ambassador to Tehran, who represents Canadian interests in the absence of formal diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The Iranian foreign ministry told the ambassador that Canada continues to refuse to offer consular services to 400,000 Iranians in the country and has become a “safe haven for the world’s economic offenders and financial criminals”.

A number of Iranians wanted for economic corruption in Iran have fled to Canada and the country refuses to extradite them.

Chief among them is Mahmoud Reza Khavari, the former CEO of state-run Bank Melli Iran, who was the central figure in a $2.6bn embezzlement case, the largest in Iran’s history.

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‘No legal credibility’
The secretary of the human rights committee of the Iranian judiciary also said the resolution has no “legal credibility” as its sponsors have a history of abusing human rights in their own countries and those of other nations such as Palestine and Yemen.

On Monday, Ali Bagheri-Kani called Canada a “systematic violator of human rights” as it suppresses its native people, violently treats women and supports “terrorist” groups.

He also slammed the resolution and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, for refusing to mention the impact of the United States’ unilateral economic sanctions on the Iranian people.

In May 2018, the US reneged on a landmark nuclear deal signed between Iran and world powers and imposed harsh sanctions that have only escalated since. Iran has said that – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic – the sanctions amount to “economic and medical terrorism”.

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In a statement late on Wednesday, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman also condemned the resolution, saying it is “unacceptable” since it is based on fabricated reports.

“It is unfortunate that a number of countries, including Canada, employ human rights and its international mechanisms as tools to advance their own political agendas,” Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

Khatibzadeh added that Iran sees the resolution as having no legal standing, and called on Canada to stop supporting US sanctions and providing a safe haven for Iranian criminals.

Meanwhile, the US Mission to the UN, a sponsor of the human rights resolution on Iran, has welcomed the resolution, saying it remains “deeply concerned” with the human rights situation in Iran.

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Deadly protests
The political back and forth comes one year after protests broke in dozens of cities across Iran in mid-November 2019 after a sudden increase in petrol prices.

In a surprise overnight move, the government of President Hassan Rouhani announced petrol would be rationed and prices would be up to tripled.

The move was implemented amid high inflation and unemployment as a result of a combination of economic mismanagement and US sanctions.

The government said the move was aimed at improving conditions for the poorest as revenues would be redistributed among low-income families. But the sudden price rise seemed to act as an immediate spark as people took to the streets and violence ensued shortly after.

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Authorities cracked down on protesters as internet access was almost entirely shut down for civilians and businesses alike for close to a week by the order of the Supreme Council of National Security.

Roughly eight months after the protests, the head of the national security commission of the Iranian parliament, Mojtaba Zonnour, said 230 people were confirmed killed. That included six official security officers, he said.

While a number of government officials acknowledged that some of the protesters had legitimate requests in the backdrop of declining quality of life, all authorities traced the hand of foreign influence and “mercenaries” in the protests.

They said a significant number of protesters were killed with weapons that are not standard issue for security officers.


#Newsworthy…

EndSARs: See how UN reacts to Burna Boy’s request after supporters pass 100,000.

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According to her, the tension in Nigeria has been noticed by organizations and are currently calling for an end to the violation of human right.

Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina J Mohammed has given a positive response to Burna Boy’s request to the United Nations over the massive killings of citizens of Nigeria by the military.

The afrobeat giant called on the United Nations to support Nigerians following the killings of unarmed men and women who went protesting for a better government free from corruption, godfather-politics, police brutality among other things that threaten the safety of the citizens.

He was met with a positive response from the deputy secretary-general, Amina J Mohammed.

She added that herself together with the UN is stressing on the importance of respect for peaceful protest and also maximum restraint to be exercised by the security forces.

@newsworthywriter


#Newsworthy…

EndSARs: Get military involved – Hussaini asks Buhari.

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Can you try this nonsense during Obasanjo’s time? I blame Buhari for taking things lightly. There are certain things that should be handled with iron fist

– Hussaini Coomassie

United Nations Ambassador for peace and social justice, Hussaini Coomassie, has condemned the activities of the EndSARS protesters across the country.

Coomassie, who is the Deputy National Coordinator, Buhari Campaign Organization, in a viral video, said President Buhari is taking things lightly with the protesters.

He stated that such nonsense could never have happened during the ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo’s tenure.

He added that the military should be used on protesters if the police have failed in putting an end to the ongoing protests.

In his words, “Can you try this nonsense during Obasanjo’s time? I blame Buhari for taking things lightly. There are certain things that should be handled with iron fist”.


#Newsworthy…

Yemi Alade gets United Nations appointment to be Goodwill Ambassador.

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Popular Nigerian songstress, Yemi Alade has been appointed by the United Nations to be her Goodwill Ambassador.

This comes after legendary singer, Innocent ‘2Baba’ Idibia was appointed a UNHCR goodwill ambassador for refugees

Receiving the appointment, the singer revealed that she is ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work in helping UNDP achieve its sustainable development goals by 2030 especially at this critical time where Covid-19 has impacted on many lives, further widening the gap between the rich and the poor.


#Newsworthy

Qatar Emir challenges global community silence on Israeli occupation.

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Qatar’s leader says Israel continues to carry out ‘flagrant violation of international resolutions’.

Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has questioned the credibility of the international community as it “stands by, unable to take any effective action to confront Israeli intransigence and its continued occupation of Palestinian and Arab land”.

In his video speech at the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly, the emir questioned the role of countries and organisations for failing to uphold the resolutions against the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and its expansion of settlement building.

He accused Israel of carrying out “flagrant violation of international resolutions and the two-state solution as agreed upon by the international community”.

“The international community stands by, unable to take any effective action to confront Israeli intransigence, its continued occupation of Palestinian and Arab land, the imposition of a stifling siege on the Gaza Strip, [and] the expanding settlement policy, among others,” he said.

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“Peace can only be achieved when Israel fully commits to the international terms of reference and resolutions that are accepted by the Arab countries and upon which the Arab Peace Initiative is based.”

The Arab Peace Initiative was a plan put forth by Saudi Arabia in 2002 that called for normalising relations with Israel in exchange for an end to its occupation of Palestinian territories, the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders and with East Jerusalem as its capital, as well as a just solution for Palestinian refugees.

Qatar’s ruler said Israel is trying to “circumvent these parameters” and any arrangements that do not take these factors into account “will not achieve peace”.

“Failure to find a just solution to the Palestinian cause, Israel’s continued settlements, and forcing a reality on the ground without being deterred, this is what raises the biggest question about the credibility of the international community and its institutions,” the emir added.

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He called upon the international community, particularly the UN Security Council, to assume its legal responsibilities and “compel Israel to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip, and to put the peace process back on track through credible negotiations based on international resolutions and not on force”.

Speaking from outside the UN headquarters in New York, Noble Reporters Media knows that it was interesting to see many Arab states within the Arab League remain consistent in their views on Israel and Palestine – which revolves around the international consensus that there should be a two-state solution.

On September 15, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain signed agreements to normalise relations with Israel in a strategic realignment of Middle Eastern countries against Iran.

The ceremony was hosted by US President Donald Trump at the White House, capping a dramatic month when the countries agreed to normalise ties without a resolution of Israel’s decades-old conflict with the Palestinians, who have condemned the agreements


#Newsworthy…

United Nation’s consent on Iran reinstated – United States claims.

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Washington isolated as global allies and adversaries say its unilateral move targeting Tehran has no legal standing.

The United States has broken with all other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and unilaterally declared the re-imposition of all UN sanctions against Iran – a claim rejected by Iran and the international community, including Washington’s close allies, as having no legal basis.

In a statement on Sunday following the expiration of a deadline set by the US, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened “consequences” for any UN member state that does not comply with the punitive measures, which were lifted under a landmark nuclear deal that was signed between six world powers and Iran in 2015 but was abandoned by the US more than two years ago.

In addition to adhering to a conventional arms embargo that is due to expire next month, Pompeo said member states must comply with restrictions such as the ban on Iran engaging in nuclear enrichment and reprocessing-related activities; the prohibition on ballistic missile testing and development; and sanctions on transfer of nuclear and missile-related technologies.

“If UN Member States fail to fulfil their obligations to implement these sanctions, the United States is prepared to use our domestic authorities to impose consequences for those failures and ensure that Iran does not reap the benefits of UN-prohibited activity,” Pompeo said.

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His statement came a month after the US officially triggered the process aimed at restoring all UN sanctions on Iran, claiming significant Iranian violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan for Action (JCPOA), the formal name for the 2015 deal that was endorsed by the Security Council.

Despite the US in May 2018 pulling out of the deal and reimposing crippling sanctions on Iran, Washington argues it is still technically a “participant” and could trigger the so-called “snapback”. This was a mechanism devised by the US negotiating team before the signing of the JCPOA that stipulated that if Iran breached its commitments, all international sanctions could snap back into place.

However, the international community, including the four other permanent Security Council members, insist the US no longer has the legal ability to force through any changes since it announced its exit from what Trump has branded “the worst deal ever” with a presidential memorandum titled Ceasing US Participation in the JCPOA.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addressed the nation directly in a live televised cabinet meeting on Sunday. He congratulated world powers since US pressure to reinstate UN sanctions “has reached its definitive point of failure”.

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Today, he said, “will be a memorable day in the history of our country’s diplomacy”.

Rouhani added should the US try to “bully” others into adhering to its declaration of reinstating UN sanctions, Iran will have a “decisive response” to match.

Pointing out how the US tried to garner the support of other nuclear deal signatories following its unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear deal, Rouhani said the United States expected Iran to act irrationally, giving it an excuse to form an international coalition against the Islamic Republic.

“Today we can say the ‘maximum pressure’ of US against the Iranian nation, politically and legally, has turned to ‘maximum isolation’ for the US.”

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The president also addressed the five remaining signatories of the nuclear deal, reiterating the promise that if they fully adhere to their commitments under the accord, Iran will also fully implement its commitments.

Exactly one year after the US abandoned the nuclear deal, Iran started gradually scaling down its commitments, including those concerning its stockpile of enriched uranium. Iran still continues to grant access to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In a letter to the Security Council, the European signatories to the deal – Britain, France and Germany, or E3 – stressed UN sanctions relief for Iran would continue, adding any decision or action to reimpose them “would be incapable of legal effect”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also told the council he would not take any action on the US declaration because “there would appear to be uncertainty whether or not any process … was indeed initiated”.

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On Sunday morning, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh told reporters the US is experiencing some of its “most bitter” times as it has chosen to stand “on the wrong side of history”.

“The message of Tehran for Washington is clear: Return to the international community. Return to your commitments. Stop this rogue and unruly behaviour. The international community will accept you,” Khatibzadeh said.

Transatlantic rift
According to Hamidreza Azizi, a visiting fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), there are clear reasons why the European powers, as well as Russia and China, oppose the US demand.

“First, it would pave the way for further arbitrary interpretation of international treaties by Washington, that may one day come back to haunt the Europeans themselves,” Azizi said

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“Second, Iran’s reaction to sanctions return would be to leave the JCPOA or even NPT,” he added, referring to the international nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that pursues nuclear disarmament.

As to why the US would engage in such a move based on shaky legal arguments, Azizi says its goal is political.

“It wants to keep Iran under the international spotlight, continuing to introduce the Islamic Republic as a threat to international peace and security,” he said, adding that the US also wants to make Europeans more cautious in dealing with Iran.

According to Azizi, the snapback showdown is the latest and most evident sign of a rift in transatlantic relations.

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“Especially if Trump gets re-elected as the US president, this will work as fuel for further disagreements between the EU and the US,” he said, pointing out that Russia and China could use the opportunity to expand their influence in Iran and the wider region.

Arms embargo
The US attempt to trigger the snapback mechanism came on the heels of another demand it made at the Security Council that left it isolated.

In mid-August, the council resoundingly rejected a US bid to extend a global arms embargo on Iran that expires on October 18 under the JCPOA.

Washington only managed to secure the support of the Dominican Republic for its proposed resolution to indefinitely extend the embargo, leaving it far short of the minimum nine “Yes” votes required for adoption. Eleven members abstained while China and Russia opposed the resolution.

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Last week, Pompeo reiterated during a briefing with UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab that the US will move to reinstate UN sanctions to make the arms embargo permanent.

The US will “do its share as part of its responsibilities to enable peace, this time in the Middle East”, he said.

Zarif fired off a tweet on Thursday, saying “nothing new happens on 9/20”. He also alluded to two recent opinion pieces by John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, who had pointed out that the nuclear deal’s dispute resolution clauses are “complex and potentially lengthy” to avoid UNSC confrontations.

Citing unnamed sources, Reuters news agency reported on Friday that Trump is planning to issue an executive order in the coming days to impose secondary sanctions on anyone who would buy or sell arms to Iran, depriving them of access to the US market.

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Rising tensions
The culmination of the snapback showdown comes shortly after a fresh round of threatening rhetoric being exchanged between longtime foes, the US and Iran.

On September 13, US-based media outlet Politico published a report, citing unnamed officials, that the Iranian government is weighing an assassination attempt against Lana Marks, the US ambassador to South Africa.

The plot, the report claimed, would be executed in retaliation for Washington’s assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Iraq in early January.

In a tweet, Trump, who is seeking re-election on November 3, said the US will retaliate with “1,000 times greater” force against any Iranian attack on its interests.

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In response, Iran cautioned the US against making “a new strategic mistake” by believing false reports and warned of a “decisive response”.

On Saturday, the head of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps issued a stern warning directly addressing Trump, saying the killing of Soleimani will be avenged but Marks is not a proportionate target.

“We will target those who were directly or indirectly involved in the martyrdom of this great man,” Major-General Hossein Salami said.

On Friday, South Africa’s State Security Agency said in a statement there is insufficient evidence to sustain the allegation of a plot to assassinate Marks.


#Newsworthy…

Iran’s enriched uranium stockpile over set limit – IAEA, United Nations

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IAEA says Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium stands at more than 10 times the limit set in 2015 nuclear deal.

Iran continues to increase its stockpile of enriched uranium in violation of limitations set in the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, but has begun providing access to sites where the country was suspected of having stored or used undeclared nuclear material, the United Nations’ atomic watchdog agency said on Friday.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported in a confidential document distributed to member countries that Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium now stands at more than 10 times the limit set in the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

As of August 25, Iran had stockpiled 2,105.4kg (4,641.6 pounds) of low-enriched uranium, up from 1,571.6kg (3,464.8 pounds) reported on May 20.

Iran signed the nuclear deal in 2015 with the United States, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, China and Russia.

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Known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), it allows Iran only to keep a stockpile of 202.8kg (447 pounds).

Iranian technicians work at a new facility producing uranium fuel for a planned heavy-water nuclear reactor, just outside the city of Isfahan 410km south of the capital, Tehran [File: Vahid Salemi/AP]

The IAEA also reported that Iran has been continuing to enrich uranium to a purity of up to 4.5 percent, higher than the 3.67 percent allowed under the JCPOA. It said Iran’s stockpile of heavy water had decreased.

The deal promised Iran economic incentives in return for curbs on its nuclear programme.

But in 2018, President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled the US out of the deal, saying it needed to be renegotiated.

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Since then, Iran has slowly scaled back against the restrictions in an attempt to pressure the remaining nations to increase incentives to offset new, economy-crippling US sanctions.

Those countries maintain that even though Iran has been violating many of the pact’s restrictions, it is important to keep the deal alive because the country has continued providing the IAEA with critical access to inspect its nuclear facilities.

The agency had been at a months-long impasse over two locations thought to be from the early 2000s, however, which Iran had argued inspectors had no right to visit because they dated to before the deal.

Last week, Iran announced it would allow the IAEA access to the two sites, following a visit to Tehran by the organisation’s Director General Rafael Grossi.

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The IAEA said Iran had granted its inspectors access to one of the two sites.

“Iran provided agency inspectors access to the location to take environmental samples,” a separate IAEA report seen by the AFP news agency said on Friday.

“The samples will be analysed by laboratories that are part of the agency’s network,” it added.

The report said an inspection at the second site will take place “later in September 2020 on a date already agreed with Iran”.


#Newsworthy..

Shut all migrant detention centres in Libya – United Nations

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Report by Antonio Guterres says more than 2,780 people held in centres, with about one fifth of them being children.


United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has called for the closure of all detention centres holding refugees and migrants in Libya, condemning what he described as human rights violations committed there.

“Nothing can justify the horrendous conditions under which refugees and migrants are detained in Libya,” Guterres said in a report submitted on Thursday to the UN Security Council, according to Noble Reporters Media‘s known Agency.

“I renew my appeal to the Libyan authorities … to fulfil their obligations under international law and to close all detention centres, in close coordination with United Nations entities,” he added.

According to the secretary-general’s report, more than 2,780 people were being detained as of July 31 in centres across Libya. Twenty-two percent of the detainees were children.

“Children should never be detained, particularly when they are unaccompanied or separated from their parents,” Guterres said, calling on Libyan authorities to ensure the children are protected until “long-term solutions” are found.

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Libya has been mired in chaos since the 2011 overthrow and killing of longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi, with warring rival administrations based in the country’s west and east battling for power.

Guterres: ‘Men and boys are routinely threatened with violence when they are calling their families, to pressure them to send ransom money’ [File: Mahmud Turkia/AFP]

As the country slid into conflict, traffickers have exploited the unrest to turn the North African country into a key route for migration towards Europe, across the Mediterranean. In the past three years, however, crossings dropped sharply due to European Union and Italian-backed efforts to disrupt trafficking networks and to increase interceptions by Libya’s coastguard.

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticised the systematic return of migrants intercepted in the Mediterranean to Libya, where they are held in crowded detention centres nominally under the control of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord in Tripoli.

“The conditions in these centres are crazy,” Alkaol, 17, a migrant from The Gambia, told Noble Reporters Media‘s known Media earlier this year.

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“Sometimes you get food, sometimes you don’t. If they give you bread, you eat half and save half. You don’t know when you will eat next. If you don’t have money, your only way out is either escaping or death.

“If they catch people running away, they shoot at you. They may shoot you in the leg, they may shoot you in the head.”

Guterres also cited reports of torture, enforced disappearances, and sexual and gender-based violence in the centres, committed by those running the facilities.

He also mentioned a reported lack of food and healthcare.

“Men and boys are routinely threatened with violence when they are calling their families, to pressure them to send ransom money,” he wrote.

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“Migrants and refugees have been shot at when they attempted to escape, resulting in injuries and deaths,” the report said, alleging that some are even “left on the streets or bushes to die” when they are deemed too weak to survive.

In centres where arms and munitions are stored, some refugees and migrants are recruited by force, while others are forced to repair or reload firearms for armed groups, it said.

More than a year after a July 2019 air raid killed more than 50 refugees and migrants and wounded dozens more at a detention centre near Tripoli, no one has been forced to account for the deaths, Guterres said.

The attack followed repeated warnings about the vulnerability of people detained close to Libya’s conflict zones and raised tough questions about whether it was necessary to lock them up in the first place.


#Nnewsworthy…

COVID-19 endangers refugee schooling crisis: United Nations

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A new UNHCR report warns that many refugee children, especially girls, will not be able to return to school.


The United Nations has warned that the coronavirus pandemic risks deepening a schooling crisis for refugee children, nearly half of whom were already out of school before the emergence of COVID-19.

A new report published on Thursday by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) cautioned that many refugee children – especially girls – who had attended school before the pandemic would not be able to return.

“After everything they have endured, we cannot rob them of their futures by denying them an education today,” UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi said in a statement, calling for action to support refugees’ right to an education.

The report, using data from 12 countries that host more than half of the world’s refugee children, found that more than 1.8 million of them – or a full 48 percent of all refugee children of school age – are out of school.

Attendance is particularly lacklustre in secondary school and higher.

About 77 percent of the refugee children were enrolled in primary school, but only 31 percent attended secondary school and 3 percent were in higher education, according to the report.

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While the UNHCR said a shift in methodology made it difficult to compare with data from previous years, it noted the statistics, dire as they look, actually represent a small improvement.

A 2019 report indicated that only 1 percent of refugees worldwide were in higher education. But the pandemic is now threatening to undo even the small advances made, it said.

‘Chilling prediction’
The report found that while children in every country have been hit by the impact of the pandemic and containment measures put in place to rein in the virus, refugee children have been especially disadvantaged.

They are far more likely than others to face difficulty returning to their studies, with many refugee families no longer able to afford school fees, uniforms and books as income sources dry up.

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They are also less likely to have access to the technologies needed for remote learning and could be required to work to help keep their struggling families afloat.

This is particularly true for refugee girls, who already had less access to education than boys.

By the time they reach secondary level, refugee girls are half as likely as their male peers to be enrolled in school, according to the UNHCR, which warned the coronavirus crisis risked widening the gender disparities.

Children walk to their United Nations-run school in Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City [File: Mohammed Abed/AFP]

Using UNHCR data, the Malala Fund, which works towards removing barriers preventing girls from going to school, estimated that half of all refugee girls who were attending secondary school when the pandemic hit will not return when classrooms reopen this month.

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And in countries where less than 10 percent of refugee girls were enrolled in secondary school, all of them were at risk of dropping out for good.

That is “a chilling prediction that would have an impact for generations to come”, the UNHCR said.

Matthew Saltmarsh, a UNHCR spokesman, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) from London on Thursday: “We think there are a number of steps that need to be taken. First of all, we think inclusion is the most important thing and a number of countries have included refugees in their national education system.

“More can be done by the international community to provide a medium-term sustainable aid for education, but also for education in emergencies. Private sector and other actors can come in,” he said.


SOURCE: NOBLE REPORTERS MEDIA, NEWS AGENCIES


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