The United Nations said Friday that its findings showed that the shot that killed Al Jazeera TV journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on May 11 was fired by Israeli forces.
The Palestinian-American journalist, who was wearing a vest marked “Press” and a helmet, was killed on May 11 while covering an Israeli army operation in Jenin camp in the northern West Bank.
“We find that the shots that killed Abu Akleh came from Israeli security forces,” UN Human Rights Office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.
“It is deeply disturbing that Israeli authorities have not conducted a criminal investigation.
“We at the UN Human Rights Office have concluded our independent monitoring into the incident.
“The shots that killed Abu Akleh and injured her colleague Ali Sammoudi came from Israeli security forces and not from indiscriminate firing by armed Palestinians, as initially claimed by Israeli authorities” she said.
She added that the information came from the Israeli military and the Palestinian attorney general.
“We have found no information suggesting that there was activity by armed Palestinians in the immediate vicinity of the journalists,” Shamdasani said.
In line with its human rights monitoring methodology, the UN rights office inspected photo, video and audio material, visited the scene, consulted experts, reviewed official communications and interviewed witnesses.
The findings showed that seven journalists arrived at the western entrance of the Jenin refugee camp soon after 6:00 am.
At around 6:30 am, as four of the journalists turned into a particular street, “several single, seemingly well-aimed bullets were fired towards them from the direction of the Israeli security forces.
“One single bullet injured Ali Sammoudi in the shoulder; another single bullet hit Abu Akleh in the head and killed her instantly.”
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has urged Israel to open a criminal investigation into Abu Akleh’s killing and into all other killings by Israeli forces in the West Bank and in the context of law enforcement operations in Gaza.
A renewed two-month truce in war-torn Yemen that has given the population a sense of normalisation is the first step toward a broader peace settlement, the United Nations special envoy said Friday.
The truce “has delivered some humanitarian respite to the population that is unprecedented in terms of the history of the conflict, and from that point of view, it also provides us with scope and breathing space for engaging on a political settlement”, Swedish diplomat Hans Grundberg told AFP in an interview.
“The truce is the first step towards a broader settlement,” he said on the sidelines of the Yemen International Forum in Stockholm, a conference attended by Yemeni political actors, experts and representatives of a host of civil society organisations.
The Yemeni government and Huthi rebels agreed earlier this month to extend the truce which went into effect in April and significantly reduced the intensity of fighting in a conflict the UN says has triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The conflict has killed hundreds of thousands and left millions on the brink of famine.
The country has been gripped by conflict since the Iran-backed Huthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa in 2014, triggering a Saudi-led military intervention in support of the beleaguered government the following year.
Under the truce, commercial flights have resumed from Sanaa airport to Amman and Cairo and oil tankers have been able to dock in the lifeline port of Hodeida, which is in rebel hands, in an attempt to ease fuel shortages.
“The truce provides us with steps that normalise life in certain small areas for the Yemeni population, and that I think is both important, but also symbolic,” Grundberg said.
“The obvious wish that I have is that this normalisation, not only on the airport but on all other issues that we’re engaging on, continues”.
A provision in the truce agreement for the rebels to ease their siege of Yemen’s third-biggest city Taez has yet to be implemented, and the government has demanded roads to the city be opened.
“We have been engaging in direct negotiations for the last two weeks in Yemen on this issue,” Grundberg said.
He said there had been “steps forward” but provided no time frame for a possible resolution to the issue.
“We have seen both sides coming with proposals to us, wanting to see a solution on the matter”, but “we haven’t reached a solution on the matter yet”.
“Right now we have a proposal on the table that I do hope can deliver.”
Russia’s war in Ukraine has pushed global displacement numbers above 100 million for the first time, and the UN warns the resulting hunger crisis could force many more to flee their homes.
Efforts to address the global food insecurity crisis, which has been dramatically aggravated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, is “of paramount importance… to prevent a larger number of people moving,” the United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi told reporters.
“If you ask me how many… I don’t know, but it will be pretty big numbers.”
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, traditionally a breadbasket to the world, has sparked dramatic grain and fertiliser shortages, sent global prices soaring and put hundreds of millions of people at risk from hunger.
“The impact, if this is not resolved quickly, would be devastating,” Grandi said. “It is already devastating.”
His comments came as he presented the UNHCR refugee agency’s annual report on global displacement, showing that a record 89.3 million people were displaced at the end of 2021 — more than doubling in a decade.
But since Russia launched its full-scale invasion on February 24, as many as 14 million Ukrainians may have fled within their own war-ravaged country or across borders as refugees, pushing global displacement past the grim 100-million mark for the first time.
– ‘Terrible trend’ –
“Every year of the last decade, the numbers have climbed,” Grandi said.
“Either the international community comes together to take action to address this human tragedy, resolve conflicts and find lasting solutions, or this terrible trend will continue.”
The UN agency found that at the end of 2021, a record 27.1 million people were living as refugees, while the number of asylum seekers rose 11 percent to 4.6 million.
And for the 15th straight year, the number of people living displaced within their own country due to conflict swelled, hitting 53.2 million.
The UNHCR report said last year was notable for the number of protracted conflicts in places like Afghanistan that escalated, even as new ones flared.
At the same time, growing food scarcity, inflation and the climate crisis were adding to hardship and stretching the humanitarian response, threatening to weaken already dire funding levels for many crises, UNHCR warned.
That has not been the case for Ukraine, with an enormous outpouring of solidarity, and fleeing Ukrainians welcomed with open arms across Europe.
– ‘Not unmanageable’ –
Grandi hailed the generous response to this crisis, but highlighted the contrast to how refugees fleeing wars in places like Syria and Afghanistan have been met.
The UN refugee chief recalled how European leaders had insisted “it’s full” when asked to take in more refugees from those conflicts.
“I’m not naive. I fully understand the context,” he said, adding though that the generous response to fleeing Ukrainians “proves an important point… The arrival of desperate people on the shores or at the borders of rich countries is not unmanageable.”
Grandi also pointed to how massive sums of money had been made immediately available to respond to the Ukraine crisis, despite countries’ insistence their coffers were empty when met with appeals for more aid for other situations.
“There cannot be inequity in the response,” he said.
Countries have vowed the aid provided for Ukraine would come on top of amounts pledged for other crises, but Grandi cautioned that so far “the mathematics doesn’t show that.”
– ‘Vicious circle’ –
It would be disastrous if already underfunded responses were cut further, he warned.
He voiced particular concern for the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, where massive displacement is being driven by a macabre combination of conflict, insecurity, poor governance and devastating effects of climate change.
“It’s a very vicious circle of many factors,” he said.
Grandi warned that beyond the immediate impact, the war in Ukraine was also complicating the response to displacement crises since it had “dealt a terrible blow to international cooperation.”
Even if the war were to end within months — which he thought unlikely — “the scars on international cooperation of those fractures between the West and Russia… will take a long time to heal.”
And, he warned, “if that is not healed, I don’t know how we will deal with this global crisis.”
Migrant workers sent home an estimated $605 billion to low- and middle-income countries last year, a UN study said Thursday, boosted by an increase in payments sent via mobile phones.
Global remittances rose 8.6 percent compared to 2020 and are projected to grow to $630 billion in 2022, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Such payments are a major source of income for many low-income households, with around 800 million family members expected to benefit in 2022.
Between now and 2030, global remittances will amount to $5.4 trillion, the equivalent of twice the GDP of Africa in 2021, IFAD has estimated.
“Remittances lift people out of poverty, put food on the table, pay for education, cover health expenses, allow housing investments and many other family goals beyond consumption,” IFAD president Gilbert Houngbo said.
However, the report warned that the upward trend would likely slow this year as inflation erodes wages, and as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Many countries in central Asia depend on remittances from Russia, with payments accounting for as much as 30 percent of their GDP, said the report.
But the decline in the value of the ruble and the economic impact of sanctions has triggered a “sharp decline in transfers”, IFAD said.
Most of the money sent home by migrant workers is transferred through bricks-and-mortar institutions with clients paying cash, but the coronavirus pandemic saw a important shift towards digital.
With lockdowns and border closures making physical services more difficult to access, mobile phone payments jumped by 48 percent in 2021.
They still only accounted for three percent of the global total, but Pedro De Vasconcelos, manager of the Financing Facility for Remittances at IFAD, said the trend is set.
“Cash is still king, but it’s losing ground,” he told AFP.
This matters because mobile payments are more convenient, particularly for those in rural areas, and are also cheaper.
In Africa — which received $94 billion in remittances in 2021, an increase of 13 percent on 2020 — transfer fees are the highest in the world.
The UN’s World Food Programme on Tuesday appealed for $426 million to stave off famine in South Sudan, where conflict and floods have placed millions at risk.
“We are already in a crisis, but we need to restore food assistance… to prevent people from falling into starvation and famine. To do so, we urgently require $426 million for the next six months,” WFP’s programme officer for South Sudan, Adeyinka Badejo, told reporters.
“South Sudan is facing its hungriest year since independence,” Badejo warned from the capital Juba.
The reasons, she said, were accumulative — “continuing sub-national conflict, climate crisis of three consecutive years of floods, and severe economic shocks exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and now the war in Ukraine.”
The youngest country in the world, South Sudan has experienced chronic instability since becoming independent from Sudan in 2011.
A civil war between 2013-2018 left nearly 400,000 dead and millions displaced.
A peace accord provided for a power-sharing arrangement in a unity government gathering the two rivals, President Salva Kiir and Vice President Riek Machar.
But many articles of the accord are still to be implemented and armed clashes between the two sides have resumed.
Amplifying the impact from violence has been flooding.
The impoverished landlocked country is bracing for a fourth successive year of floods that could force 600,000 people from their homes, said Badejo.
Last year a million people were displaced.
“More than two-thirds of the population are experiencing a serious humanitarian and protection crisis and require humanitarian assistance to survive,” she said.
“Of these, we estimate that 8.3 million people, including internally displaced persons and refugees, will endure severe acute hunger during the lean season. This also includes two million women and children at risk of acute malnutrition in 2022.”
This year, the WFP had planned to provide food assistance to 6.2 million people.
But mounting demands and insufficient funds meant that the agency in April had to suspend help for 1.7 million of these — people deem
Nearly five million Ukrainians have been registered as refugees across Europe since Russia launched its invasion less than four months ago, the United Nations said Thursday.
“The Ukraine war has caused one of the largest human displacement crises in the world,” said UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.
An update of the agency’s data portal on the Ukraine situation, aimed to better reflect movements to and from the war-ravaged country, showed that a total of 4,816,923 Ukrainians had been registered as refugees across 44 European countries since February 24.
Far more will have actually left the country, with UNHCR data showing that more than 7.3 million border crossings out of Ukraine had been recorded by June 7.
Another 2.3 million crossings had been registered back into the country, the data showed.
UN officials have said some people have gone back and forth for various reasons, including visiting families, checking their properties, helping others to escape or returning to their jobs.
The UN says women and children account for 90 percent of those who have fled abroad, with men aged 18 to 60 eligible for military service and unable to leave.
Beyond those who have fled out of Ukraine, the UN’s International Organization for Migration estimates that more than eight million people have been displaced within the devastated country.
– Spread across Europe – More than half of the crossings out of Ukraine were into neighbouring Poland, which has registered 3.8 million arrivals, as well as nearly 1.7 million crossings into the war-torn country.
A full 1.15 million Ukrainians have registered as refugees in Poland, UNHCR said.
Hundreds of thousands have also crossed into other neighbouring countries like Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Moldova, with tens of thousands registering as refugees in each of those countries.
Most, however, have moved on to other countries across Europe, with some 780,000 Ukrainian refugees registered in Germany, nearly 367,000 in the Czech Republic, and over 118,000 in Spain.
Tens of thousands have also been registered in other European countries.
“The outpouring of solidarity in states receiving refugees remains extraordinary,” UNHCR said.
It hailed in particular the European Union member states which have rapidly activated the bloc’s Temporary Protection Directive for the first time, providing special protection and services for Ukrainian refugees.
Of the 4.8 million registered refugees across Europe, 3.2 million of them have registered for that status or other similar national protection schemes, the agency said.
The UNHCR data portal also showed that more than 1.1 million crossings from Ukraine into Russia, and close to 17,000 into Belarus, a Russian ally, since the invasion began.
No data were available on returns to Ukraine from these countries.
The Taliban on Friday rejected the UN Security Council’s call to reverse heavy restrictions imposed on Afghan women, dismissing their concerns as “unfounded”.
The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution on Tuesday that criticised the Taliban for limiting girls’ and women’s access to education, government jobs and freedom of movement since seizing power last year.
Afghanistan’s supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada has also ordered women to cover up — including their faces — when in public, triggering international outrage.
The Security Council’s 15 member states called on the Taliban “to swiftly reverse the policies and practices which are currently restricting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Afghan women and girls”.
It also demanded the hardliners reopen all schools to female students.
Afghanistan’s foreign ministry said the government considers the Security Council’s concerns as “unfounded and reaffirms its commitment” to rights of Afghan women.
“Since the people of Afghanistan are predominantly Muslim, the Afghan government considers the observance of Islamic hijab to be in line with the religious and cultural practices of society,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Taliban adhere to an austere interpretation of Islam.
Their last stint in power between 1996 and 2001 was marked by human rights violations, and, despite promising a softer rule this time around, they have increasingly trampled over the freedoms of Afghans.
In the two decades of US military intervention that followed the ousting of the Taliban in 2001, Afghan women and girls made marginal gains in restoring their rights.
UN special rapporteur on human rights in Afghanistan Richard Bennett on Thursday said the Taliban’s restrictions were aimed at making women “invisible in society”, at the end of a visit to Kabul.
No country has recognised the new Taliban government, and the authorities have so far failed in their efforts to assume Afghanistan’s seat at the world body.
The United Nations voiced alarm Tuesday at the human rights implications of North Korea’s response to the massive coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Leader Kim Jong Un has ordered nationwide lockdowns to try and slow the spread of the disease through the country’s unvaccinated population, and deployed the military after what he has called a botched response to the outbreak.
“The latest restrictions, which include putting people under strict isolation and imposing further travel restrictions, will have dire consequences for those already struggling to meet their basic needs,” UN rights office spokeswoman Liz Throssell told reporters.
“We urge the… authorities to ensure that all measures adopted to tackle the pandemic are necessary, proportionate, non-discriminatory, time-bound and strictly in line with international human rights law,” she said.
Authorities should evaluate “the impact of any measures on vulnerable populations, taking into account experience elsewhere in effectively addressing the pandemic and to mitigate any adverse impact”.
A total of 56 deaths and nearly 1.5 million cases of “fever” have been reported in North Korea since the country announced its first Covid case a week ago, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
North Korea’s leader has slammed healthcare officials for their failure to keep pharmacies open, and has put himself front and centre of the response, saying the outbreak is causing “great upheaval”.
Throssell also reiterated a call from the UN rights chief, Michelle Bachelet, for countries “to relax sanctions to enable urgent humanitarian and Covid-related assistance” to the impoverished country.
North Korea has one of the world’s worst healthcare systems, with poorly-equipped hospitals, few intensive care units, and no Covid treatment drugs or mass testing ability, experts say.
“We encourage the DPRK as a matter of urgency to discuss with the UN the opening of channels for humanitarian support, including medicines, vaccines, equipment and other life-saving support,” Throssell said.
“We also urged authorities to facilitate the return of UN and other international staff to the DPRK to assist in the provision of support, including to vulnerable populations and those living in rural and border areas.”
The UN human rights office said it was “appalled” at the killing of a veteran Al Jazeera reporter in the West Bank and demanded a transparent investigation into her death.
“We are appalled at the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh while covering an Israeli military operation in Jenin, Palestine,” UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s office said on Twitter, adding: “We urge an independent, transparent investigation into her killing. Impunity must end.”
More than eight million people are estimated to have been internally displaced by Russia’s war in Ukraine, having fled their homes and stayed within the country, the United Nations said Tuesday.
This is in addition to the more than 5.9 million Ukrainians who have left the country entirely since Moscow invaded on February 24.
The figure for the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) as of May 3, issued by the UN’s International Organization for Migration, is up from the estimate of 7.7 million that the IOM gave as of April 17.
“The needs of those internally displaced and all affected by the war in Ukraine are growing by the hour,” said IOM director general Antonio Vitorino.
“Access to populations in need of aid remains a challenge amid active hostilities, but our teams are committed to continue delivering urgent assistance inside Ukraine and in neighbouring countries.”
The IOM conducted its latest survey between April 29 and May 3.
Sixty-three percent of current IDPs are estimated to be women.
Almost half of the IDPs have fled their homes in the eastern region of Ukraine, where Russia is now concentrating its assault.
More than 3.9 million people are estimated to have fled their homes in the east; 1.65 million have fled the Kyiv region and 1.3 million have fled the north.
The survey found that 36 percent of IDPs — 2.9 million people — are now in the relatively safer west of the country.
The IOM study found that financial support was the overwhelming need among IDPs, with shelter another pressing need.
“Nine percent of all people surveyed in the latest report, including those not internally displaced, indicated that their homes were damaged or destroyed,” the IOM said.
“Among the internally displaced alone, this figure rose to 27 percent. Every one out of 10 people surveyed said that they would need materials to fix damaged homes.”
The rapid representative assessment was conducted through interviews with 2,000 anonymous respondents aged over 18 who were contacted at random by telephone.
The survey is used by the IOM to gather insights into internal displacement and mobility and to assess the humanitarian needs in Ukraine.
The UN Security Council is expected to hold a new public meeting on Thursday on Russia’s war in Ukraine, in light of the continuing deterioration of the humanitarian situation, diplomats said Monday.
The session, requested by France and Mexico, will be the 16th held by the Security Council since the Russian invasion of February 24, as part of an effort by western states to maintain pressure on Russia, which as a permanent member of the council has the power to block measures it disapproves of.
France and Mexico have requested briefings from the UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), a diplomat said.
The meeting comes after the bombing at the weekend of a school in eastern Ukraine, in which 60 civilians were killed, according to Kyiv.
It will be held on the same day as an extraordinary session in Geneva of the UN Human Rights Council, requested by Ukraine, on “the deterioration of the human rights situation in Ukraine.”
The new Security Council meeting will follow the adoption on Friday of a unanimous Security Council statement, initiated by Norway and Mexico, giving “strong support” to the UN Secretary General in his search for “a peaceful solution” to the conflict.
That first demonstration of unity since the invasion began won the support of Moscow, which had hitherto blocked the initiatives of the Security Council.
The United States has requested an emergency UN Security Council meeting for Wednesday to discuss North Korea, according to diplomats, amid fears that Pyongyang will resume nuclear testing in the coming weeks.
Washington holds the Security Council presidency for the month of May and has been considering calling a meeting since late last week, the same diplomats said Monday. The public meeting is scheduled for 1900 GMT.
It comes as Pyongyang has dramatically ramped up its sanctions-busting missile launches, conducting 15 weapons tests since January including firing an intercontinental ballistic missile at full range for the first time since 2017.
North Korea’s latest test occurred Saturday when Pyongyang fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile, its second missile launch in just three days.
The Wednesday Security Council meeting will be held one day after the swearing in of South Korea’s hawkish new president Yoon Suk-yeol, who has vowed to get tough on Pyongyang and bolster the US security alliance.
Satellite imagery meanwhile indicates North Korea may also be preparing to resume nuclear testing, with the US State Department on Friday warning a test could come “as early as this month.”
No comment could immediately be obtained from the US diplomatic mission to the UN on Wednesday’s proposed meeting.
Washington has also recently proposed toughening sanctions on North Korea through the Security Council.
A draft Security Council resolution presented last month by the United States and seen by AFP would tighten sanctions, including by reducing from four million to two million barrels the amount of crude oil North Korea would be allowed to import each year for civilian purposes.
But the resolution stands little chance of approval as diplomats say there is no support from China or Russia, which hold veto power and have relations with Pyongyang.