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Situation in Ukraine remains volatile warns senior UN human rights official

He also voiced concerns about hundreds of people still missing in Government and rebel-held areas in the east, and reported human rights violations in the Crimea. Minorities there, such as the Tatars, have seen their situation deteriorate considerably in the two years since the Russian Federation extended its control over the peninsula. “Anti-extremism and anti-terrorism laws have been used to criminalize non-violent behaviour and stifle dissenting opinion, while the judicial and law enforcement systems have been instrumentalized to clamp down on opposition voices,” he said. “Worst affected are Crimean Tatars, whose main representatives body, Mejlis, has been banned, and whose representatives I met during my visit.” In addition, accounts of torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary and incommunicado detention by the armed groups have continued to surface in the conflict zone, where 2.7 million people live. Those responsible “will be held to account sooner or later,” Mr. Šimonović said, before adding that war crimes, crimes against humanity and grave breaches of human rights cannot be the subject of any amnesty. Human rights violations in BurundiAlso today, the Human Rights Council heard directly from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who presented on the status of human rights in Burundi. He detailed a “tragic and comprehensive” deterioration of human rights of the people of Burundi during the year following the political crisis of April 2015, according to the Council. The perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses, including extra-judicial executions, enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrest and torture, were members of the security and intelligence forces, members of an armed element connected to the Imbonerakure, which itself was associated with the governing party, as well as other armed groups and individuals. “Almost 270,000 people fled the country and a further 100,000 were internally displaced,” he said, adding that the economy was in free-fall, squandering the development gains made during eight years of sustained growth. The situations in Ukraine and Burundi are among the countries currently on the agenda of the Human Rights Council , whose session started on 13 June and will last through this Friday. Wide view of the Human Right Council during its 32nd session. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré Addressing the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Ivan Šimonović, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, appealed to the leaders of the warring sides to respect a ceasefire agreement and said he was people he had met on both sides of the front lines. “I have heard them loud and clear: they want peace, human rights and the rule of law,” he said.The conflict has claimed the lives of nearly 9,500 people since fighting erupted two years ago – more than one in four civilians – and left nearly 22,000 people injured. While the rate of casualties has slowed substantially since a ceasefire in September 2015 and the signing of the Minsk Peace Accords – an agreement signed under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to halt fighting in the Donbass region of Ukraine – some 10 people are killed each month. These dire figures are part of the latest report from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) covering the period between 16 February and 15 May 2016. It notes that since 15 May, half of all civilian casualties were caused by shelling from mortars and howitzers – weapons which use in the conflict zone are prohibited by the Minsk Agreements. Mr Šimonović said that clashes and exchange of fire happened “on a daily basis” near Donetsk and Horlivka – cities controlled by the armed groups – and in the towns of Avdiivka and Mariinka, which are under Government protection. Those living on either side of the contact zone also face severe restrictions on their freedom of movement, the UN official said, in reference to the 20,000-30,000 people who cross the front line every day to get their pensions or see a doctor. read more

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UN will support Colombias drive to build a future in peace says

A statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson recalled that four years ago, the Colombian Government and the FARC-EP set out to resolve through dialogue one of the world’s oldest armed conflicts. Today, the statement continued, they announced the end of the negotiations “and will deliver to the Colombian people the results of their discussions.”Since 2012, the parties have been in talks hosted in Havana, Cuba. Throughout the discussions, negotiators have reached agreement on key issues such as political participation, land rights, illicit drugs and victims’ rights and transitional justice. Among other developments, the Government and the FARC-EP announced in May an agreement to release and reintegrate child soldiers from the opposition force. The parties also announced the establishment of a gender sub-commission to bolster the voice of women in the peace process. In June, the Secretary-General travelled to Havana, where he witnessed the bilateral signing of a ceasefire and the laying down of arms and noted that the “peace process validates the perseverance of all those around the world who work to end violent conflict not through the destruction of the adversary, but through the patient search for compromise.” In the statement issued today, Mr. Ban warmly congratulated President Juan Manuel Santos, FARC-EP leader Timoleón Jiménez and their negotiating teams in Havana for their hard work and patience in reaching this stage in the process. The UN chief also congratulated the many Colombian organizations and citizens who have contributed to the talks with their proposals and encouragement.The Secretary-General also commended the guarantors, Cuba and Norway, and accompanying countries Chile and Venezuela, for their “unfailing support” to the talks.“Now that the negotiations have concluded, an equally determined and exemplary effort will be required to implement the agreements,” Mr. Ban underscored in the statement, calling upon the international community to lend its full support to Colombia at this new and critical stage of the peace process.The United Nations will strive to continue and intensify the support it has given to peace efforts over the years through its agencies, funds, and programmes, and the UN Mission in Colombia, which is mandated to verify the ceasefire and the laying down of arms, said the statement.“We will stand with Colombia in its drive to build a future in peace,” it concluded. read more