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United Nations peacekeeping operations in Haiti are coming to a close

Source: UN Security Council
Country: Haiti

The UN is turning the page, but not closing the book on its support. Effective on Wednesday, the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti will begin work on strengthening political stability and good governance.

15 OCTOBER 2019

National Security Forces Need Ongoing Training, Resources, Haitian Speaker Says

The United Nations long‑standing peacekeeping presence in Haiti closed its doors today amid mounting political and security challenges, which risk eroding strides facilitated by a generation of blue helmets, said the Organization’s senior peace operations official in a briefing to the Security Council.

“The current context is not an ideal [end to] 15 years of peacekeeping,” said Jean-Pierre LaCroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations. Presenting the Secretary-General’s final report on the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) — whose mandate expires today — he warned the 15-member Council that a political stalemate in Haiti is leading to deteriorating security, violent protests and disruptions in humanitarian support. Haitians remain largely dissatisfied with their leaders and at least 30 people were reported killed during protests between 15 September and 9 October.

Noting that President Jovenel Moïse’s Government has not yet received confirmation in the Parliament, he warned that legislative elections cannot take place amid the stalemate and the stage is now set for an institutional vacuum. Calling on all parties to reject violence, he said the many strides achieved in the past 15 years — especially in reducing community violence, strengthening human rights and fostering accountability for victims — should not mask Haiti’s significant ongoing challenges. Emphasizing that the closure of MINUJUSTH does not represent the Organization’s departure, he said the shift to the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) presents an opportunity to re‑centre the Organization’s priorities.

Mona Juul (Norway), President of the Economic and Social Council, outlined the work of that body’s Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Haiti, whose establishment was mandated by the Security Council to issue recommendations on the country’s long‑term development. Stressing that its recent report “should sound the alarm for the international community” regarding the situation on the ground, she said significant economic and social stress and persistent humanitarian needs underpin Haiti’s current political instability. Indeed, she said, about 60 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line and 2.6 million people are food insecure, requiring humanitarian assistance — twice as many as in 2018.

As Council members took the floor, several noted the fact that on Wednesday, 16 October, Haitians will wake up for the first time in 15 years in full control of their own security. Many speakers voiced concern about the country’s bleak economic outlook and dire humanitarian situation, while calling on national actors to reject violence and commit to resolving political differences peacefully.

To that point, the representative of the Dominican Republic urged all stakeholders in Haiti to engage in sincere dialogue and unite to face challenges, with support from the international community. Calling for efforts to address Haiti’s economic situation, he expressed hope that today’s meeting will forge solid commitments to support the Government in its quest for the rule of law and human development. To contribute to civility in the country, BINUH must have the Council’s full support and must be provided with adequate resources, he added.

France’s representative said the relationship between the United Nations and Haiti is now undergoing an important shift. Welcoming the progress made under the watch of both MINUSTAH and MINUJUSTH, she nevertheless urged the Council to remain clear-sighted about remaining challenges. Pledging France’s support, she underlined the need to assist Haiti’s institutions, bolster its National Police and help combat corruption, thereby rebuilding the population’s trust in its leaders.

The representative of the United States joined other speakers in expressing gratitude to those who have served in Haiti’s two peacekeeping missions — MINUJUSTH and its predecessor, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Praising the reforms accomplished in the country’s security sector and in implementing the rule of law, she emphasized that the new BINUH mission should be resourced to continue supporting such improvements. Pointing out that the United States remains Haiti’s largest bilateral donor, she urged other partners to increase their investments in the country and called on stakeholders to push forward tangible improvements.

Haiti’s delegate, describing the current United Nations transition as a turning point for his country, said MINUJUSTH’s closure is taking place at a delicate moment. While much progress has been made over the last 15 years, Haiti remains far from achieving stability. Calling on the United Nations to redouble its efforts in line with the priorities defined by national authorities, he said the national security forces require ongoing training, appropriate equipment and adequate resources. The Haitian people expect that the United Nations will continue to provide responsible support through BINUH’s good offices, in full respect for the country’s sovereignty, he said.

Also speaking were the representatives of Peru, Indonesia, Poland, United Kingdom, Kuwait, Germany, China, Russian Federation, Côte d’Ivoire, Belgium, Equatorial Guinea and South Africa, as well as the European Union.

The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 12:11 p.m.


JEAN-PIERRE LACROIX, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, introducing the Secretary-General’s final 90-day report on the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH) (document S/2019/805), urged Council members to reflect on the United Nations long‑standing presence in Haiti, as well as the current situation on the ground. “The country is facing a significant political crisis, intertwined with socioeconomic challenges,” he said, noting that they, in turn, affect the security environment — “a vicious cycle that the country has seen one too many times”. Outlining recent developments, he said President Jovenel Moïse’s fourth Government has not received confirmation in the Parliament and deplorable instances of political violence have been seen. Legislative elections cannot take place in the current political stalemate and the stage is set for an institutional vacuum at the beginning of 2020.

The President’s call for national dialogue and for the formation of a unity Government are viewed by the opposition as “too little, too late”, he said. Mistrust is making compromise difficult and it remains to be seen whether the designation on 9 October of former Prime Minister Evans Paul to conduct outreach to the opposition will create more space for problem-solving and rapprochement. Turning to the security situation, which has deteriorated in the past month, he said large segments of the population are dissatisfied with their leaders, as well as the socioeconomic situation in the country. They are being mobilized in demonstrations and are demanding change, and some are ready to use violence to achieve their political goals. Noting that at least 30 people were reported killed during protests between 15 September and 9 October, he also cited an increase in incidents of hate speech and the use of media to incite violence.

Against that backdrop, the Haitian National Police force is facing its first test in managing security without international operational support, he said. It performed well, but continued advisory support from the United Nations and material support from bilateral partners is still needed. Meanwhile, the struggling Haitian population is now facing additional challenges and general insecurity is obstructing humanitarian operations. Hospitals, orphanages, civil protection units and other emergency services have been severely impacted by the security situation, and many are functioning with limited capacity due to fuel shortages, lack of safe water and medicine. Calling on all parties to reject violence, he welcomed the appointment of the Secretary-General’s new Special Representative for Haiti, Helen La Lime of the United States, and urged all of Haiti’s partners to work in concert to preserve the gains made in the country.

“The current context is not an ideal [end to] 15 years of peacekeeping in the country,” he continued. However, it is crucial to consider how peacekeeping has contributed to progress in many areas, especially the rule of law. Support to the Haitian National Police has led to significant changes on the ground, with the homicide rate cut nearly in half between 2004 and 2019. There have also been improvements in the justice arena, with structural reforms paving the way for the recruitment of corps of magistrates — including women — supported by the United Nations. The good offices of the Secretary-General have contributed to efforts to defuse political uncertainty and tension over the past decade and a half, while community violence reduction programmes have proven a valuable element of both the work of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) and MINUJUSTH. These Missions have also helped strengthen human rights and foster accountability for victims of rights violations, he said.

Emphasizing that such accomplishments do not mask the fact that Haiti still requires the international community’s support, he underlined the need for more political solutions to systemic challenges in the country. The current unfolding crisis is a powerful reminder of the links among peace, security and development, he said, stressing that lasting peace must be anchored in stability. Emphasizing that the closure of MINUJUSTH does not represent the departure of the United Nations from Haiti, he said that, on the contrary, the Organization will continue to provide strong support throughout the transition to the new United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH). The shift also presents an opportunity to re‑centre the United Nations priorities in support of the 6 benchmarks and 37 indicators requested by the Council and laid out in the Secretary-General’s most recent report.


KELLY CRAFT (United States) calling today historic for Haiti and the United Nations due to the transition to a political mission in the country, expressed gratitude to those who have served in MINUSTAH and MINUJUSTH. The transition shows that United Nations peace missions can adapt to changing situations. Stressing her country’s continued support for the United Nations presence in Haiti, she praised the reforms that have been accomplished in the security sector there, calling for all necessary resources to be provided for its continued improvement, which should also be supported by BINUH along with other rule of law efforts. She urged the Government and other stakeholders to take responsibility for those efforts, engaging comprehensively with the new political mission. Pointing out that her country remains Haiti’s largest bilateral donor, she urged other partners to increase investment in Haiti and all stakeholders to work together to accomplish tangible human advancement for all Haitians.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), paying tribute to MINUSTAH and noting his country’s contributions to it, acknowledged the obstacles facing the new mission. He called for national dialogue to overcome those obstacles, along with further work on improving the human rights and justice sectors. Reducing pre-trial detentions are critical in that area, and reorganizing the electoral calendar is also key. He called for adequate resources and continued training for the national police while also stressing the need for arms‑control measures and collaboration with local communities to counter violence. Facing the threat of natural disasters and food insecurity is also essential, he said, urging all stakeholders to work together in that effort and to integrate undertakings in human rights, peace and security and development. Ownership of Haitians of all such endeavours is critical. He pledged his country’s continued support to the country and to the new mission.

JOSÉ SINGER WEISINGER (Dominican Republic) expressed hope that the Security Council’s meeting will forge solid commitments to support the legitimate authorities of Haiti in their quest for the rule of law and human development. To contribute to civility in the country, the new mission must have the Council’s full support and must be provided with adequate resources. Naming the obstacles to peacebuilding and stabilization in Haiti, he said the Haitian National Police’s capabilities must continue to be improved, including in the area of stemming gang violence. The community‑violence‑reduction programme could be a model for such efforts. At the same time, however, the economic situation must be addressed, he stressed, calling on all stakeholders to engage in sincere dialogue and to unite to face the challenges, with support from the international community. Close cooperation between the Government and partners is also critical for the success of BINUH. He called on the international community to support that goal.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia) commended the Haitian National Police’s efforts to maintain peace and stability, including by managing protests and unrest nationwide. He stressed the importance of addressing a lack of equipment promptly, as maintaining law and order is the bedrock of the country’s recovery. However, as impunity and corruption are still shadowing the rule of law, Haiti needs to take a bold step and immediately hold a comprehensive inclusive national dialogue. As a special political mission, BINUH does not have a peacekeeping element, making it necessary for the Government to take the lead in promoting peace and stability. Haiti would benefit from the United Nations Peacebuilding Fund as it collaborates with the United Nations country team.

ANNE GUEGUEN (France) said the relationship between the United Nations and Haiti is currently undergoing an important shift. Welcoming the progress made under the watch of both MINUSTAH and MINUJUSTH, she nevertheless urged the Council to remain clear-sighted about current challenges: a constitutional crisis, endemic corruption, widespread violence and a deteriorating humanitarian situation. The resolution to those challenges must be driven by the Haitian people, requiring an inclusive political dialogue supported by the international community. Pledging France’s support to the Government and people of Haiti through the European Union, United Nations and the International Organization of la Francophonie, she underlined the need to assist Haiti’s institutions, its National Police and efforts to combat corruption. Pointing out that the latter can help the country’s political actors rebuild trust with the population, she went on to express hope that the Council will be able to speak publicly in support of those efforts.

MARIUSZ LEWICKI (Poland), assessing the situation in Haiti as having gone “from bad to worse in every measurement”, expressed hope for goodwill on the part of President Moïse and the opposition parties to explore every route to break the current stalemate. A deep, inclusive and sincere political dialogue is crucial. In that regard, he expressed serious concern about the indefinite postponement of elections. Paying tribute to the accomplishments of MINUSTAH and MINUJUSTH and to the sacrifices of those who lost their lives in those Missions, he expressed further concern that the Haitian National Police has not been able to fully respond to the latest outbreak of violence and effectively stem the operations of gang members. “We may lose everything we have gained in the blink of an eye without proper funding and continued support of the international community,” he stated, adding that BINUH has no time to lose in facing current challenges. Calling on the Government to work closely with partners to provide humanitarian aid, he also regretted the underfunding of such assistance.

DAVID CLAY (United Kingdom), commending the work of United Nations personnel and the Organization’s partners over the past 15 years in Haiti, noted, however, that significant challenges persist in the political, security and economic situation of the country. He called on all parties to resolve their differences peacefully. The establishment of BINUH provides an opportunity to focus United Nations support on national ownership and political engagement. In that regard, immediate progress must be made towards national dialogue, concrete measures to address impunity and other priorities, including continued investment in the National Police and further momentum on human rights issues. Welcoming progress in configuring the new mission, he called for remaining tasks to be accomplished in a timely manner. Indicator targets must be realistic and robust, as well as nationally owned, he said, urging all actors to work together in search of bold solutions to Haiti’s persistent challenges.

MASOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) expressed deep concern about the current political situation in Haiti, as well as its implications for the country’s economy and security, calling on all parties to observe self-restraint and refrain from escalation. As impunity is at the centre of the challenges noted in the latest report of the Secretary-General, he called for a full investigation of corruption and human rights violations to restore the trust of Haitian in democratic governance. Noting, in addition, that access to humanitarian aid is threatened by the unrest, he welcomed the allocation of money by the Central Emergency Relief Fund. In participating in inclusive political dialogue, he urged all stakeholders to put aside their personal interests for the good of the country. He warned, however, that caution must be exercised in pressuring the country to hold elections before it is ready. In that regard, he urged BINUH and the country team to provide support to Haitians in resolving the impasse themselves. He finally paid tribute to the personnel of MINUSTAH and MINUJUSTH and all their partners for their work over the past 15 years.

JUERGEN SCHULZ (Germany) welcomed the transition to a strategic, political United Nations presence in Haiti. He endorsed the new approach to benchmarks that reflect the mutually supportive relationship between the United Nations peace and security and development pillars, cautioning against the use of “mechanistic” benchmarks based solely on the number of guns, trained police personnel and the availability of resources. Expressing worries about the persistent political deadlock, he encouraged the Government and opposition to make use of international assistance by accepting offers to mediate.

WU HAITAO (China) said United Nations peacekeepers diligently delivered on their mandate in Haiti for 15 years, sometimes at great personal sacrifice. Notwithstanding that outstanding support, the country’s political crisis has once again escalated. Citing violent demonstrations, a deteriorating economy and ongoing humanitarian challenges, he said strengthening the rule of law and resolving the current political crisis as soon as possible is crucial. Haiti’s international partners must provide support, including development assistance to help the country pursue the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. For its part, China continues to provide support to the Haitian Government, including in building a stronger police force, and is working to help the new mission, BINUH, “start off on the right foot”.

ALEXANDR V. REPKIN (Russian Federation) said that, on Wednesday, Haiti will wake up for the first time in 15 years in full control over its security situation. “This is a milestone,” he said. Describing many remaining challenges — including a dire economic situation, political paralysis and a bleak humanitarian outlook — he nevertheless expressed hope that the political crisis “can and must” be resolved through wide-reaching and inclusive dialogue. While the right to peaceful assembly and free expression are important, they must always be exercised in full respect for the law. “Resorting to armed force has never brought political stability nor has it generated economic development,” he stressed, urging all parties in Haiti to engage peacefully. Meanwhile, he said, the international community, through BINUH, should support national capacity-building in strict compliance with Council resolution 2476 (2019) and avoid interfering in Haiti’s domestic affairs.

GBOLIÉ DESIRÉ WULFRAN IPO (Côte d’Ivoire) welcomed the launch of BINUH and its support for human rights protections and preparations for free and fair elections in Haiti. Condemning violence, he also spotlighted Haiti’s rampant insecurity, deteriorating humanitarian situation and political stalemate. Warning of the risk of a constitutional crisis beginning in January 2020 due to the continued inability to confirm a new Government, he said current challenges, including a fuel shortage and the deterioration of living conditions, could worsen. Meanwhile, Haiti faces difficulties in adopting finance laws and the activities of armed groups continue. Côte d’Ivoire supports efforts to pursue a peaceful dialogue in Haiti, as well as proposed measures which would allow the President to govern by decree in the absence of a confirmed Government, aimed at ensuring stability. He also called for efforts to shed light on alleged misconduct by officials of the oil alliance known as Petrocaribe.

KAREN VAN VLIERBERGE (Belgium) said “a new stage has been opened of our commitment”, building on the work of MINISTAH and MINUJUSTH. Echoing expressions of concern about the many challenges facing Haiti, she condemned the recent violence and called on all the parties to express their views peacefully. There is an urgent need to push forward a peaceful dialogue process and tackle the root causes of instability through both national ownership and accountable leadership. Noting that a sense of impunity is a main source of frustration for the Haitian people, she called for efforts to rebuild their trust with political leaders, pointing out that no judicial proceedings have yet been pursued following a spate of murders in Grand Ravine in 2018. At the same time, allegations of misappropriation of funds continue with impunity, she said.

ANATOLIO NDONG MBA (Equatorial Guinea), noting the transition of the United Nations presence in Haiti and the continued challenges there, called upon the country’s leaders to carefully consider the future they want. In that regard, inclusive dialogue is critical, as is the quick consolidation of the Government to stem the instability and make progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Progress towards credible elections is also needed, he said, as is addressing the security and economic situation. The challenges must be borne in mind as BINUH opens, he stated, pledging support to the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the country. Paying tribute to the personnel of the previous missions for their work, he also stressed his delegation’s continued support to the people and Government of Haiti, who he hoped will take full responsibility soon for the advancement of their country toward harmony and sustainable peace.

JERRY MATTHEWS MATJILA (South Africa), Council President for October, spoke in his national capacity, expressing concern about heightened tensions in Haiti, called for the urgent formation of a Government and formal appointment of a Prime Minister. Such critical steps would assure the international community, particularly donors, that Haitian stakeholders are genuinely committed to a return to constitutional normalcy and sustainable stability. All parties, including the Government, opposition groups, civil society and non-governmental organizations should continue an inclusive dialogue to seek a peaceful solution to current challenges. Addressing the root causes of the situation in Haiti remains critical, he added, emphasizing the instrumental role of justice system reform in building trust amongst all Haitians.

PATRICK SAINT-HILAIRE (Haiti), describing the current United Nations transition as a turning point for his country, said MINUJUSTH’s closure is taking place at a delicate moment. While much progress has been made over the last 15 years, Haiti remains far from achieving stability. Calling on the United Nations to redouble its efforts in line with the priorities defined by national authorities, he said Haiti’s current challenges are a result of a long‑standing system of corruption, inconsistencies and social exclusion. Spotlighting the population’s resilience, he noted that the Secretary-General’s report underlines such specific challenges as a protracted political crisis, rising food insecurity and economic instability. Major efforts are needed to build up the country’s agricultural infrastructure, boost rural development and guarantee access to food — especially for the most vulnerable people. Meanwhile, he said, “it is only through dialogue that we will be able to overcome the current crisis”.

Emphasizing that much remains to be done in that regard, he said Haiti’s national security forces require ongoing training, appropriate equipment and adequate resources. He described his Government’s commitment to combat violence, strengthen State institutions, provide access to justice, fight corruption, protect human rights and ensure the security of future elections. In that context, he also highlighted the Haitian people’s expectation that the United Nations will provide responsible support, including through its ongoing efforts to fight cholera. Recalling the “remarkable apology” made by former Secretary‑General Ban Ki-moon on that issue — and in reference to odious instances of sexual exploitation and abuse by peacekeepers — he said BINUH should play an important good‑offices role and help the Government address the root causes of Haiti’s challenges, all while fully respecting the country’s sovereignty.

MONA JUUL (Norway), President of the Economic and Social Council, said the United Nations efforts in Haiti have been a clear example of the complementarity between the work of that organ and the Security Council. Haiti has been on the Economic and Social Council’s agenda since 1999, primarily through the work of its Ad Hoc Advisory Group on the country, initiated in response to a request from the Security Council to provide recommendations on Haiti’s long-term development. Outlining the Group’s work through the years — which included various joint briefings and joint visits — she said its most recent report in July “should sound the alarm for the international community”. The report highlights that Haiti remains under significant economic and social stress and has persistent humanitarian needs. Emphasizing that such factors are at the root of Haiti’s current political instability and its deteriorating humanitarian situation, she said 60 per cent of the country’s population live below the poverty line and 2.6 million are food insecure, requiring humanitarian assistance — twice as many as in 2018.

“As we speak here today in this chamber, Haiti is facing a perfect storm of physical and socioeconomic factors that have converged to threaten the country’s stability,” she continued. To improve the lives of its people and ensure peace, the international community must undertake major efforts to reduce poverty and improve access to education, health and decent work, all while implementing climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. Welcoming the decision to open a more development-oriented configuration in the form of BINUH, she said that office should ensure collaboration between all the Organization’s various political, development, humanitarian and financial entities operating on the ground. “We should learn from previous transition experiences and equip the UN country team with adequate resources and capacity to do its job, with the aim of turning Haiti into a model for future United Nations-supported transitions in complex settings,” she said.

SILVIO GONZATO of the European Union, expressing deep concern about the multidimensional crisis in Haiti, regretted that trust in the current President has been lost and no dialogue process has yet succeeded. The European Union has been meeting with the parties to try and get them to move beyond this impact. A consensus-based reform of the electoral system is the priority, as is rebuilding trust. Affirming that Europe is a strong partner of Haiti, he welcomed the support of MINUSTAH and MINUJUSTH to strengthen the rule of law and the security sector, including the efforts to build the Haitian National Police. Unfortunately, the police are still weak in many areas, including the ability to rein in gang members. Efforts to strengthen the police, therefore, should be stepped up. A large challenge in that regard is getting adequate resources consistently to the police force. He pledged the European Union’s continued support for efforts to forge a democratic and stable future for all Haitians.

For information media. Not an official record


Civilian casualties growing, overall humanitarian situation deteriorating in northeastern Syria

Source: UN News Service
Country: Syrian Arab Republic

Amid ongoing fighting in northern Syria and disturbing reports that extrajudicial killings have been streamed online, the UN and their partners are continuing to deliver humanitarian supplies.

Amid ongoing fighting in northern Syria and disturbing reports that extrajudicial killings have been streamed online, the United Nations and their partners are continuing to deliver humanitarian supplies to tens of thousands of people displaced by the violence, UN agencies stressed on Tuesday.

Briefing journalists in Geneva, Jens Laerke from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) described the security situation in northeast Syria as “highly volatile”, with continuing reports of airstrikes and ground attacks linked to Turkey’s military incursion.

“On both side of the border, civilian deaths are being reported”, Mr. Laerke said.

To date, at least 160,000 civilians have been displaced since the offensive began last Wednesday, according to UN figures, with hospitals and schools and other public infrastructure hit or affected by the fighting.

UN will deliver ‘until it becomes impossible to do so’

Highlighting the commitment of the UN and its partners to “stay to deliver until it becomes absolutely impossible to do so”, Mr. Laerke noted that the organization continues to operate out of the town of Qamishli for the time being.

“The United Nations remains in Qamishli along with our staff,’ he said. “But we have seen of course that in some areas where there is active fighting, it is for obvious reasons, impossible to go there. And aid is being redirected towards areas where those who can help are moving.”

Echoing that message and at the same appealing for security guarantees for all humanitarians, Herve Verhoosel, spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP), said that 130,000 people “will receive food soon because that’s already (been) dispatched”.

Of that number, 83,000 have already received food, he added, noting that it “is arriving where the people need it the most”.

Airstrike reportedly responsible for civilian, journalists’ deaths

Although the civilian toll is unclear, given the difficulty of verifying information in a conflict zone, Marixie Mercado from UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, confirmed the deaths “of at least four children and the injuries of nine in north-east Syria”, along with seven other youngsters in Turkey.

Another incident – reportedly linked to a Turkish airstrike on the Tel-Tamor to Ras al-Ain Highway, on Sunday 13 October – resulted in the deaths of four civilians including two journalists, UN human rights office, OHCHR, said.

“The worst incident we are aware of so far, which we are still seeking to fully verify, is a report that at least four civilians, including two journalists, were killed and tens of others injured when a convoy of vehicles was hit by a Turkish airstrike,” OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville explained.

Inside Turkey, the authorities reported that 18 civilians have been killed since the conflict escalated last week, Mr. Colville added, “including a nine-month-old baby, by cross-border mortar and sniper fire by Kurdish fighters”.

Disturbing video footage has also emerged of what appear to be executions on another highway that were then streamed online, by forces linked to the Turkish military.

“We have received reports and viewed two separate pieces of video footage showing what appear to be summary executions carried out by fighters belonging to the Ahrar Al-Sharqiya armed group, which is affiliated with Turkey, on 12 October,” Mr. Colville explained.

“One of the videos – both of which have been widely shared on social media – seems to show the fighters filming themselves capturing and executing three Kurdish captives on the Al-Hassakeh – Manbij Highway…Only one of the captives appeared to be wearing military uniform.”

The UN human rights office has also received reports indicating that a well-known Kurdish female politician, Hevrin Khalaf, was also executed on the same highway, allegedly also by Ahrar al-Sharqiya fighters.

Under international law, summary executions are serious violations, OHCHR said in a statement, and may amount to a war crime.

Around 70,000 children displaced: UNICEF

At least 170,000 children could need humanitarian assistance as a result of the violence, UNICEF’s Ms. Mercado added, noting that 70,000 children have been displaced since hostilities escalated last week.

Most have sought shelter with relatives, friends and host communities, but there are also 33 collective shelters “mostly schools and unfinished buildings” across Al Hasakeh city, Raqqa city and Tal Tamer, Ms. Mercado said.

They host around 3,400 people “but the numbers fluctuate quickly as most people do not stay long”, she added, while OCHA’s Jens Laerke noted that the organization was providing aid there.

“We heard about 33 shelter points further to the south in Al-Hassakeh; so, of course we try to move aid to where people are,” he said.

WHO confirms further deliveries of medical supplies

Underscoring the impact of the conflict on already weakened health services, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that 40 tonnes of medical supplies would be dispatched to Qamishli later on Tuesday, to complement the nearly 15 tons of life-saving aid that reached the city’s National Hospital on Monday.

Elsewhere, in the embattled northeast, “the national hospital in Ras Al-Ain is currently out of service and the national hospital and two health centres in Tel Abyad are also currently non-functional”, WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said. “Health facilities in camps hosting displaced people in Mabruka, Ain Issa and Ras Al-Ain were also evacuated, with additional facilities under threat as the conflict rapidly moves forward.”

In Al-Hol camp, where about 64,000 children and women are housed – some with suspected links to ISIL fighters – the WHO spokesperson noted that the three field hospitals had reduced their services since 12 October, because the hostilities had impeded the access of health staff.


Ebola outbreak threatens fragile local health system in eastern DR Congo

Source: Médecins Sans Frontières
Country: Democratic Republic of the Congo

Many doctors and health workers have been hired away by the internationally funded Ebola response, leaving health centers and the regional hospital short of staff and financial support.

In Mabalako, a rural health zone in North Kivu province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the ongoing Ebola epidemic has taken a heavy toll on the fragile health system. Many doctors and health workers have been hired away by the internationally funded Ebola response, leaving health centers and the regional hospital short of staff and financial support, with potentially deadly consequences.

In four health facilities, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams work to improve access to primary health care and reduce the risk of infection within hospitals in the midst of an active Ebola transmission zone.

At first glance, the small clinic of Metale looks more like an outpost than a health center. An MSF team refitted the interior of the wooden building, which now contains consultation spaces, several beds for patients, a maternity unit, a pharmacy, and a laboratory. In a small, weathered building next door, the old maternity unit with a simple wooden delivery table is still in use.

Driving to Metale is a long journey through the countryside of Mabalako—and through the active Ebola transmission zone. It is here, in the Mabalako health zone, that the outbreak started more than a year ago in August 2018. Nearly 400 cases of Ebola have been confirmed in this zone alone, and more than 300 people have died from the disease.

“We have fitted a tank collecting rainwater from gutters, installed new latrines, and built a disposal area with two secure tanks to safely dispose of medical waste or contaminated items,” explains Isai Sanou, an MSF water, sanitation, and hygiene specialist. Clean water and safe hygiene standards are essential for preventing and controlling infectious diseases, in addition to benefiting the maternity and laboratory services.

Health posts and centers like the one in Metale make up the fabric of the Congolese health system. They are the first line of primary health care for people in need of medical advice or treatment. Common infectious diseases like malaria, measles, or cholera are often diagnosed and treated here, and many centers have small maternity services or pediatric wards. Patients with complications or severe injuries are referred to bigger facilities or to the general hospital in each health zone.

But the health system, already under-resourced before the Ebola outbreak began, has been weakened even further as the disease spreads. There is no electricity in Metale, and no refrigerator to store much-needed vaccines for potentially deadly diseases like measles, diphtheria, or tetanus. Several vaccination campaigns in North Kivu have been put on hold or delayed as attention and resources are diverted to the complex fight against Ebola.

For health centers and hospitals in the region, the scale-up of the internationally funded Ebola response is both a blessing and a curse. Ebola response teams and international organizations setting up isolation and treatment facilities often improve infrastructure, pay for additional staff, and support primary health care services. But the local health workers needed in the Ebola response are almost exclusively hired from facilities in the area, which are now facing critical gaps in personnel.

At the General Hospital in the main village of Mabalako, this gap is strikingly evident. Over half of the doctors and nursing staff are missing, and in the four wards around the big courtyard no one has sufficient time to tend to patients. As pay for health workers participating in the Ebola response tends to be higher and more reliable than at the regional health facilities, many of the remaining staff at the hospital are disappointed that they were not selected, and morale here is low.

In the hospital, the staff shortages, lack of supplies, and low or missing salaries can be a deadly mix. “We lost children in the pediatric ward because they were not put on the correct malaria treatment straight away, an error that could have been avoided with the right human resources and more vigilance,” said MSF doctor Brian Da Cruz, who is supporting the two remaining doctors in charge of an operating theater, maternity department, pediatric clinic, and a regular ward with more than 40 beds.

The hospital also has a basic isolation zone for patients suffering from infectious diseases, but the small structure has no changing rooms, no decontamination zone, and there is no safe access for families to visit patients. As patients with suspected cases of Ebola are taken to another, better-equipped structure, isolation rooms are currently used to observe four children with measles, a vaccine-preventable but highly infectious disease that is currently rampant across DRC.

While MSF’s support mostly focuses on improving infrastructure and working alongside the remaining staff in health centers and the regional hospital, the team is currently evaluating a different model that includes a regular payment scheme to supplement staff salaries and offer bed-side training. “We are discussing [how] to play a stronger role in the hospital and the three health centers we support by taking supervisory responsibility, offering trainings on the job, and ensuring patients have access to free care while staff is getting paid,” explained MSF project coordinator Amandine Colin.

Back in Metale, MSF community outreach specialist Wivine Bokotogi hands a set of flashcards on malaria prevention and treatment to two local health promoters. Malaria is another major disease at risk of being neglected as both national and international attention and resources focus on Ebola.

In DRC, malaria accounted for 13 percent of deaths in children under five years old in 2016, and up to half of the people screened in Ebola treatment centers last year tested positive for the parasitic disease. “We train the local health promoters on key messages to prevent malaria, including instructions to cover stagnant water sources, use mosquito nets, and take children to the nearest health centers so they can be treated in time,” said Bokotogi.

Though substantial resources and expertise are being deployed to fight the second-largest Ebola epidemic in history, the response must not come at the expense of other lifesaving health care services in DRC.


UN: Defeat Venezuela in Human Rights Council Election

(New York) – Several candidates vying for seats on the United Nations Human Rights Council have problematic rights records, and UN member states should not vote for Venezuela. Venezuela’s abusive government clearly falls short of minimum standards for membership.

On October 17, 2019, the UN General Assembly will elect 14 new members to the 47-nation council for a three-year term beginning in January 2020. The Latin American and Caribbean regional group at the UN had initially put forward only two candidates for two council seats – Venezuela and Brazil, virtually assuring both of victory. But on October 3, Costa Rica, which has a solid human rights record, announced it would compete for a seat. That means the 193 assembly members can deny a seat to Venezuela’s abusive government.

“Now that UN member states have a choice, there is no possible excuse to vote for Venezuela,” said Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch. “A vote for Venezuela is a vote for the torture, murder, and impunity that have become trademarks of President Nicolás Maduro’s government. It’s a slap in the face to the millions who have fled the country, many facing dire humanitarian conditions, and the countless victims who never made it out.”

Fifty-four international and Venezuelan organizations, including Human Rights Watch, declared Venezuela unfit for council membership on October 10. In September, the council passed a resolution establishing an independent fact-finding mission to investigate allegations of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, torture, and other cruel or degrading treatment committed in Venezuela since 2014. Venezuela rejected that resolution.

UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251, which created the Human Rights Council, urges states voting for members to “take into account the contribution of candidates to the promotion and protection of human rights.” This applies to their efforts to promote and protect human rights at home and abroad. Council members are required to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights” and “fully cooperate with the Council.”

Venezuela does not meet those minimum standards, Human Rights Watch said. More than 4 million Venezuelans have fled the country to escape the humanitarian emergency, and the political, economic, and human rights crisis.

Two of the five UN geographical regions have no competition for council seats, meaning that their candidates’ victory is largely a foregone conclusion in the secret ballot. Four African countries are running for four seats: Benin, Libya, Mauritania, and Sudan. The Netherlands and Germany are seeking the two available Western group seats.

The Eastern Europe and Asia groups allowed for competition, with Armenia, Moldova, and Poland vying for two seats, and Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Marshall Islands, and South Korea competing for four spots.

All regions should ensure that they offer competitive slates, enabling UN members to deny seats to the most abusive governments. In 2016, Russia lost its Human Rights Council re-election bid by two votes following outrage over the bombardment of civilians in Aleppo, Syria. A lack of competition undermines membership standards.

The third Latin American/Caribbean candidate is Brazil, whose president, Jair Bolsonaro, has embraced rhetoric hostile to human rights norms. His government has effectively given a green light to criminal networks destroying the Amazon rainforest and attacking forest defenders. Chronic human rights problems plague Brazil, including police violence. But while Venezuela has routinely sought to frustrate the council’s ability to address abuses, Brazil has supported numerous council resolutions tackling a range of violations around the world.

Poland has systematically eroded the independence and effective functioning of its judiciary. In recent years, judges and prosecutors have been subject to arbitrary disciplinary proceedings for speaking out on judicial reforms, an interference with judicial independence.

In Indonesia, there has been a rise in religious intolerance that has led to discrimination against religious minorities, women, and LGBT people. The Indonesian government tolerated the use of hundreds of discriminatory regulations, including the blasphemy law, to prosecute minorities. In Iraq, the government has yet to ensure that all forces, including Islamic State (also known as ISIS) suspects, that may have committed war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide, are held to account for specific crimes. Iraqi security forces continue to commit abuses, killing over 100 protesters in early October after resorting to excessive and lethal force at demonstrations.

Sudan has a long history of human rights abuses and impunity for grave crimes. If it joins the Human Rights Council, the new transitional government should set an example on human rights promotion by taking concrete steps toward accountability and reforms. This should include carrying out credible investigations into attacks on protesters since December 18 and surrendering ousted President Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court.

In Mauritania, authorities have used laws on criminal defamation, spreading “false information,” and blasphemy to prosecute and jail human rights activists, bloggers, and political dissidents.

The council was created in 2006 to replace the Commission on Human Rights, whose credibility had been shattered because it included countries with records of serious human rights violations.

“UN member states shouldn’t reward abusive governments with seats on important bodies like the Human Rights Council,” said Charbonneau. “No government is perfect, but Venezuela would clearly join the council with a view to protecting itself and its allies from legitimate criticism. When member states mark their ballots, they should make defeating Venezuela a priority.”