EU To Launch New Mission On Libya Arms Embargo Enforcement

 

The EU will launch its new naval mission to enforce an arms embargo on Libya by the end of the month, after member states agreed its terms on Thursday.

Diplomatic sources told AFP that ambassadors from the 27 EU countries approved the mission, dubbed Operation Irini after the Greek word for peace, after clearing last-minute objections.

Greece has agreed to be the landing point for any migrants rescued in the course of the mission, though its primary purpose is to enforce the embargo.

An effective arms embargo is seen as crucial to stabilising Libya, where the UN-recognised Tripoli government is under attack from the forces of strongman Khalifa Haftar, who controls much of the country’s south and east.

The new mission replaces Operation Sophia, set up in 2015 to fight people-smuggling across the Mediterranean at the height of Europe’s migrant crisis.

What to do with any migrants picked up during Irini’s operations was the last major sticking point, with Italy earlier this week insisting it would not receive them.

READ ALSO: COVID-19 Forcing Parents To Skip Kids’ Vaccinations – UNICEF

EU naval vessels, provided and crewed by member state navies, will operate in the eastern Mediterranean with the authority to board ships suspected of delivering arms, a diplomatic source said.

Irini will start when Sophia ends on March 31, with a renewable one-year mandate, though ministers will review it every four months to check it is not having a “pull effect” — encouraging migrants to set out on risky crossings over the Mediterranean.

The agreement in February was finally reached over objections from Austria and Hungary, which feared that reviving the mission would create a de facto rescue fleet that would ferry migrants across the sea to Europe.

AFP

COVID-19: UN Seeks Ease Of Sanctions On Iran, Other Countries

People queue in line to receive packages for precautions against COVID-19 coronavirus disease provided by the Basij, a militia loyal to Iran’s Islamic republic establishment, from a booth outside Meydane Valiasr metro station in the capital Tehran on March 15, 2020. – Iran on March 15 announced that the new coronavirus has killed 113 more people, the highest single-day death toll yet in one of the world’s worst-affected countries. STRINGER / AFP.

 

The UN rights chief called Tuesday for any sanctions imposed on countries like Iran facing the new coronavirus pandemic to be “urgently re-evaluated” to avoid pushing strained medical systems into collapse.

“At this crucial time, both for global public health reasons, and to support the rights and lives of millions of people in these countries, sectoral sanctions should be eased or suspended,” Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

“In a context of global pandemic, impeding medical efforts in one country heightens the risk for all of us,” she said.

Bachelet insisted “humanitarian exemptions to sanctions measures should be given broad and practical effect, with prompt, flexible authorisation for essential medical equipment and supplies.”

Her comments came as the number of cases of COVID-19 approached 400,000 worldwide, including nearly 17,000 deaths, according to an AFP tally using official sources.

Bachelet pointed in particular to the case of Iran — one of the hardest-hit countries in the pandemic with nearly 2,000 deaths.

READ ALSO: Over 200,000 Coronavirus Cases Declared In Europe

Even before the pandemic, she pointed out that human rights reports had repeatedly emphasised the impact of sectorial sanctions on access to essential medicines and medical equipment in the country, including respirators and protective gear for healthcare workers.

Bachelet’s office stressed that more than 50 Iranian medics had died since the first COVID-19 case was detected in the country five weeks ago.

She warned that Iran’s epidemic was also spreading to neighbouring Afghanistan and Pakistan, putting a strain on their fragile health systems as well.

The statement also cautioned that sanctions could impede medical efforts in Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela and Zimbabwe during the pandemic.

“The majority of these states have frail or weak health systems,” Bachelet warned.

“Progress in upholding human rights is essential to improve those systems — but obstacles to the import of vital medical supplies, including over-compliance with sanctions by banks, will create long-lasting harm to vulnerable communities,” she said.

The UN rights chief stressed that “the populations in these countries are in no way responsible for the policies being targeted by sanctions, and to varying degrees have already been living in a precarious situation for prolonged periods.”

Bachelet stressed the importance of protecting health workers: “Medical professionals should never be punished by the authorities for pointing out deficiencies in the response to the crisis.”

She urged world leaders to come together.

“No country can effectively combat this epidemic on its own,” she said. “We need to act with solidarity, cooperation and care.”

AFP

Millions Could Die If Coronavirus Spread Left Unchecked – UN Chief

 In this file photo taken on February 24, 2020 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during an update on the situation regarding the COVID-19 in the SHOC room (Strategic health operations centre) at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva. SALVATORE DI NOLFI / POOL / AFP
In this file photo taken on February 24, 2020 UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during an update on the situation regarding the COVID-19 in the SHOC room (Strategic health operations centre) at the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva. SALVATORE DI NOLFI / POOL / AFP

 

Millions of people could die from the new coronavirus, particularly in poor countries, if it is allowed to spread unchecked, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Thursday, appealing for a coordinated global response to the pandemic.

“If we let the virus spread like wildfire — especially in the most vulnerable regions of the world — it would kill millions of people,” he said.

“Global solidarity is not only a moral imperative, it is in everyone’s interests,” he said.

Guterres stressed the need for a coordinated global response to contain a “health catastrophe” that already has claimed the lives of more than 9,000 people and infected more than 217,500 around the world.

“We need to immediately move away from a situation where each country is undertaking its own health strategies to one that ensures, in full transparency, a coordinated global response, including helping countries that are less prepared to tackle the crisis,” he said.

He urged governments to give “the strongest support to the multilateral effort to fight the virus, led by the World Health Organization, whose appeals must be fully met.”

“The health catastrophe makes clear that we are only as strong as the weakest health system.”

In terms of support for the global economy, Guterres said the focus should be on helping the most vulnerable: low income workers and small and medium size businesses.

“That means wage support, insurance, social protection, preventing bankruptcies and job loss,” he said.

Financial facilities are needed to support countries in difficulty, he said, adding that the IMF, World Bank and other international institutions have a key role to play.

“And we must refrain from the temptation of resorting to protectionism,” he said. “This is the time to dismantle trade barriers and re-establish supply chains.”

AFP

Sanusi Dethronment: SERAP Sends Urgent Complaint To UN

 

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sent a complaint to the United Nations Working Group over what they described as “the arbitrary detention and degrading treatment of deposed Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi (II), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi.”

This was revealed in a statement signed on Thursday by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare.

In the complaint dated March 11, 2020, and addressed to Mr José Guevara Bermúdez Chairman/Rapporteur of the Working Group, SERAP said the continued detention of Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is a violation of his human rights.

“The Nigerian and Kano State authorities have violated the following rights under the Nigerian Constitution, 1999 (as amended) and international law in continuing to detain Emir Sanusi: the right to be free from arbitrary detention; the right to freedom of movement; and the right to due process of law.

READ ALSO: Sanusi’s Dethronement And Banishment Is Illegal, Says Falana

“The detention of Emir Sanusi constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of his liberty because it does not have any legal justification. The detention also does not meet minimum international standards of due process,” the statement read in part.

SERAP then called on UN Working Group to “initiate a procedure involving the investigation of Emir Sanusi’s case, and urgently send an allegation letter to the Nigerian and Kano State authorities inquiring about the case generally, and specifically about the legal basis for his arrest, detention, and degrading treatment, each of which is in violation of international law.”

SERAP asked the group to issue an opinion declaring that Emir Sanusi’s deprivation of liberty and detention is arbitrary and in violation of Nigeria’s Constitution and obligations under international law.

They also urged the Working Group to call for Emir Sanusi’s immediate release.

SERAP also called on the UN to request the Nigerian and Kano State authorities to award Emir Sanusi adequate compensation for the violations he has endured as a result of his unlawful arrest, arbitrary detention, and degrading treatment.

UN Security Council Cuts Schedule Over Coronavirus

UN Security Council meeting on September 26, 2018 in New York on the sidelines/ AFP

 

The UN Security Council will scale back its schedule for March as a precaution against the coronavirus pandemic, China said Wednesday.

China, which holds the March presidency of the Security Council and is also the epicenter of the virus, wants to ensure “we will be in a better position to protect ourselves,” said its ambassador, Zhang Jun.

While no Security Council sessions will be canceled, China has advised a “scaling down of the meetings” including reducing delegation sizes, Zhang told reporters.

Informal consultations within the powerful 15-member body may also be shifted to a larger room so “that we have more space and less people,” he said.

The United Nations has pushed back major gatherings outside of the Security Council.

On Wednesday it indefinitely delayed a March 23-April 3 meeting on marine biodiversity as well as an April 13-24 forum on indigenous issues.

It already postponed a March annual meeting on the status of women that would have brought 12,000 people to New York.

No cases of COVID-19 have been reported within the 3,000-strong UN Secretariat, said the world body’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.

The United Nations has halted tours and much of the staff has been asked to work remotely, Dujarric said.

AFP

UN Calls For ‘Two State’ Solution To Be Respected In Middle East

UN Security Council meeting on September 26, 2018 in New York on the sidelines/ AFP

 

The UN Security Council made a rare show of unity Monday when it called on all parties to maintain their support for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. 

“Council Members reiterated their support for a negotiated two-state solution … where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders,” said a statement released by Belgium, which holds the rotating presidency, and supported by all 14 other members, including the United States.

“All parties should refrain from undermining the viability of the two states solution in order to maintain the prospects for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace,” the statement added, an allusion to Israel’s recent threat to build thousands of more homes in East Jerusalem, in an area claimed by the Palestinians.

The council also “stressed the need to exert collective efforts to launch credible negotiations on all final status issues” and expressed “grave concern about acts of violence against civilians.”

The statement came after two days of rising tensions in the region after the Palestinian group Islamic Jihad fired rockets at Israel, following the killing of three of its members in the Gaza Strip and Syria.

AFP

Libya’s Warring Parties Suggest Draft Ceasefire Agreement – UN

Libyans wave their national flag as they take part in a celebration marking the Libyan revolution, which toppled strongman Moamer Kadhafi, in Benghazi on February 17, 2020. Abdullah DOMA / AFP
Libyans wave their national flag as they take part in a celebration marking the Libyan revolution, which toppled strongman Moamer Kadhafi, in Benghazi on February 17, 2020. Abdullah DOMA / AFP

 

Libya’s warring sides have proposed a draft ceasefire agreement that would see the United Nations monitor the safe return of civilians to their homes, the UN said Monday.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said it would facilitate the ceasefire process alongside a military commission with members from both sides.

The announcement came after a second round of indirect military talks in Geneva between Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) and eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

The talks, mediated by UN envoy Ghassan Salame, are aimed at brokering lasting ceasefire to fighting that has left more than 1,000 people dead and displaced some 140,000 since last April, according to the UN.

Several rounds of talks focused on economic issues, including fairer distribution of Libya’s oil wealth, have also taken place in Egypt and Tunisia, and talks towards a political solution are scheduled to start in Geneva on Wednesday.

UNSMIL said it and the two parties had “prepared a draft ceasefire agreement to facilitate the safe return of civilians to their areas with the implementation of a joint monitoring mechanism”.

“The two parties agreed to present the draft agreement to their respective leaderships for further consultations and to meet again next month,” the statement said.

The next meeting would be dedicated to drawing up terms of reference for the committee in charge of the implementation of the agreement, it said.

Libya has been in turmoil since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with rival armed factions still vying for power.

In the latest outbreak of fighting, Haftar launched his offensive on Tripoli last April but after rapid advances his forces stalled on the edges of the capital.

AFP

UN Accuses Warring South Sudan Parties Of Deliberately Starving Citizens

People displaced by conflict and living at the Protection of Civilians (POC) site mingle amongst shelters in Wau on February 1, 2020.
TONY KARUMBA / AFP

 

South Sudan’s government forces and other armed groups have “deliberately starved” civilians by denying aid access and displacing communities, a report from a United Nations rights probe said Thursday.

“Today in South Sudan, civilians are deliberately starved, systematically surveilled and silenced, arbitrarily arrested and detained and denied meaningful access to justice,” it said.

The three-member commission looked into abuses between the signing of a peace deal in September 2018 and December 2019.

The panel delivered a damning indictment of “predatory and unaccountable elites” and the suffering of civilians after six years of conflict.

The report comes two days before the latest deadline to form a unity government — a process beset with delays and bickering, and “lack of political will”, according to the commission.

“Political elites remained oblivious to the intense suffering of millions of civilians for whom they were ostensibly fighting,” it said.

AFP

Syria Conflict: 900,000 People Displaced Since December – UN

 

A Russian-backed regime offensive in northwest Syria has displaced 900,000 people since the start of December, and babies are dying of cold because aid camps are full, the UN said Monday.

That figure is 100,000 more than the United Nations had previously recorded.

“The crisis in northwest Syria has reached a horrifying new level,” said Mark Lowcock, the UN head of humanitarian affairs and emergency relief.

He said the displaced were overwhelmingly women and children who are “traumatized and forced to sleep outside in freezing temperatures because camps are full. Mothers burn plastic to keep children warm. Babies and small children are dying because of the cold.”

The Idlib region, including parts of neighboring Aleppo province, is home to some three million people, half of them already displaced from other parts of the country.

The offensive that began late last year has caused the biggest single displacement of people since the conflict began in 2011. The war has killed more than 380,000 people since it erupted almost nine years ago, following the brutal repression of popular demonstrations demanding regime change.

Lowcock warned Monday that the violence in the northwest was “indiscriminate.”

“Health facilities, schools, residential areas, mosques and markets have been hit. Schools are suspended, many health facilities have closed. There is a serious risk of disease outbreaks. Basic infrastructure is falling apart,” he said in a statement.

“We are now receiving reports that settlements for displaced people are being hit, resulting in deaths, injuries and further displacement.”

He said that a massive relief operation underway from the Turkish border is has been “overwhelmed. The equipment and facilities being used by aid workers are being damaged. Humanitarian workers themselves are being displaced and killed.”

US President Donald Trump on Sunday called for Russia to end its support for the Syrian regime’s “atrocities” in the Idlib region, the White House said.

jh/dw

UN Asked To Vote In Support Of Libya Ceasefire – Diplomats

A photo of the United Nations emblem
A photo of the United Nations emblem

 

The UN Security Council was asked Tuesday to vote on a resolution supporting a ceasefire in Libya, in what would be the first binding text adopted since fighting flared in April last year.

The United Kingdom, which has been drafting a text for three weeks, called for the vote to take place on Wednesday, diplomatic sources said.

The position of Russia, which blocked a draft resolution last week, is unknown.

The resolution “affirms the need for a lasting ceasefire in Libya at the earliest opportunity, without pre-conditions.”

It aims to end fighting between the UN-recognized government Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and eastern-based military commander Khalifa Haftar.

Since April 2019, the GNA has fought back against an offensive by fighters loyal to Haftar, who is supported by several countries including Russia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and France.

The UN has accused foreign actors of intensifying the conflict and violating an arms embargo on the war-torn country.

The draft that will be voted on no longer contains any mention of the Security Council’s concerns over the involvement of “mercenaries” in Libya.

Russia blocked a draft resolution on February 5 due to inclusion of the word “mercenary” in the text.

Moscow is accused of sending several thousand mercenaries from the private Russian security company Wagner to support Haftar, who controls much of the south and east of Libya.

Russia denies involvement.

The British draft invites the African Union, Arab League and European Union to help supervise the proposed ceasefire.

It calls for the continuation of talks between representatives of Libya’s warring parties.

Discussions in Geneva ended on Saturday with no deal on a ceasefire but the UN has proposed a second round of negotiations for February 18.

The text confirms commitments made by world leaders at a summit in Berlin last month to ending all foreign interference in the country and to uphold a weapons embargo.

UN envoy Ghassan Salame has said the commitments are being violated.

Oil-rich Libya has been torn by fighting between rival factions since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi and toppled his regime.

UN Security Council, Kushner To Meet Over Trump’s Mideast Plan

Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner is on the short-list of potential candidates for the president’s next chief of staff, US media said on December 13, 2018.  AFP

 

The United States has requested a closed-door UN Security Council meeting Thursday for President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, to present the administration’s new Mideast peace plan, diplomatic sources told AFP Monday.

He intends to set forth the plan that Washington unveiled last week and to listen to the position of the council’s other 14 members, the sources said.

The meeting would take place several days before Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas comes to the United Nations — he is expected February 11 — to express opposition to the US plan and to demand adherence to international law.

AFP

24 Killed In Fresh DR Congo Attack

United Nations (UN) South African peacekeepers patrol a street in Oicha where an attack took place in a nearby village the day before, in Oicha, on January 29, 2020.  ALEXIS HUGUET / AFP

 

Up to 24 people were killed on Thursday in a fresh attack in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s east attributed to the Allied Democratic Forces militia, taking the number of civilians killed this week to over 60, officials and a monitor said.

Twenty-four bodies were found at four sites near Oicha in the volatile Beni region, the area’s top administrator Donat Kibwana said.

The Kivu Security Tracker, a joint project of the Congo Research Group and Human Rights Watch put the toll at 19.

DR Congo troops have been carrying out a military operation on the ADF, which originated in Uganda but now active in DRC’s east — long plagued by various militias.

Militiamen have responded with a series of massacres against civilians with gruesome attacks involving machetes.

The ADF, blamed for the deaths of more than a thousand civilians in Beni since October 2014, began as an Islamist-rooted rebel group in Uganda that opposed Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

It fell back into eastern DRC in 1995 during the Congo Wars and appears to have halted raids inside Uganda. Its recruits today are people of various nationalities.

UN experts estimated the ADF in 2018 to number around 450 fighters.

A report to the UN Security Council recently said the ADF seemed to follow an extreme Islamist ideology, but there is no information on whether the group has links with international jihadist groups.

The spate of massacres has become a major challenge for President Felix Tshisekedi, who took office a year ago.

AFP