PRESS BRIEFING BY THE UNITED NATIONS INFORMATION SERVICE
11 October 2022
30,000 flee clashes in DR Congo's west
Angele Dikongue-Atangana, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), speaking from Kinshasa, said that the UNHCR was alarmed by a surge of deadly intercommunal violence in the DRC’s western locality of Kwamouth, which had displaced thousands since July. Clashes had reportedly started over customary taxes on agricultural land use between the Teke and Yaka communities. More than 142 people had been killed, including some beheaded.
As of 6 October, some 27,000 – most of them women and children – had been displaced by the violence and needed urgent assistance in Kwilu and Mai Ndombe provinces. Another 2,600 people had sought refuge in the Republic of the Congo after crossing the Congo River in canoes. Many had become separated from family members during their flight. Heavy rains had made getting to safety more difficult for civilians, and several key routes had become impassable to humanitarian vehicles delivering life-saving assistance.
Ms. Dikongue-Atangana stressed that the latest displacement in the DRC exacerbated an already severely underfunded response to assist the 521,000 refugees and more than 5.5 million internally displaced people from the country. Just 40 per cent of the USD 225.4 million required had been funded. In the Republic of the Congo, UNHCR had only received 16 per cent of the requested USD 37.4 million needed for its refugee response in 2022.
Full statement is here.
Replying to questions, Ms. Dikongue-Atangana said that the violence was primarily related to the conflicting claims over land between the two communities. The magnitude of the clashes this time was worse than in previous outbursts, she stated. The Government was meeting with all stakeholders and trying to mediate in the conflict.
Latest attacks in Ukraine
Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), reminded that the Secretary-General was deeply shocked by the large-scale missile attacks by the armed forces of the Russian Federation on cities across Ukraine that had resulted in widespread damage to civilian areas and led to dozens of people being killed and injured. This constituted another unacceptable escalation of the war and, as always, civilians were paying the highest price. The work of the OHCHR Monitoring Mission as well as the work of UN humanitarians on the ground were continuing.
Ravina Shamdasani, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that the missile attacks by Russian armed forces the previous day, which had struck cities across Ukraine, had left at least 12 civilians dead and more than 100 injured in Kyiv, Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia, and in Kyiv and Sumy regions. The location and timing of the strikes – with people commuting to work and taking children to school – was particularly shocking.
OHCHR was gravely concerned that some of the attacks appeared to have targeted critical civilian infrastructure. Many civilian objects, including dozens of residential buildings and vital civilian infrastructure had been damaged or destroyed in eight regions, indicating that those strikes might have violated the principles on the conduct of hostilities under international humanitarian law. Attacks targeting civilians and objects indispensable to the survival of civilians were prohibited under international humanitarian law.
OHCHR urged the Russian Federation to refrain from further escalation, and to take all feasible measures to prevent civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.
OHCHR briefing note is available here.
Ms. Shamdasani, responding to questions from the media, said that the OHCHR was very concerned about these attacks, the timing of which – during the morning rush hour – was particularly worrying. Intentionally targeting civilian objects, which were not military targets, amounted to a war crime, she stressed.
Report on migrants in Libya
Ravina Shamdasani, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that widespread and systematic human rights violations and abuses against migrants in Libya were compounded by the lack of pathways to protection within and outside the country, meaning that migrants were often compelled to accept ‘assisted return’ to their home countries in conditions that might not meet international human rights laws and standards, according to a UN human rights report released today.
“Migrants are frequently compelled to accept assisted return to escape abusive detention conditions, threats of torture, ill-treatment, sexual violence, enforced disappearance, extortion, and other human rights violations and abuses. Collectively, these conditions have created a coercive environment that is often inconsistent with free choice,” the reported stated.
‘Assisted returns’ were, in principle, voluntary. However, the report found that many migrants in Libya were unable to make a truly voluntary decision to return in accordance with international human rights law and standards, including the principle of free, prior and informed consent, said Ms. Shamdasani. Since 2015, more than 60,000 migrants in Libya had been repatriated to different countries of origin across Africa and Asia through ‘assisted return’ programmes.
Full report is available here.
National Security Law in Hong Kong
Ravina Shamdasani, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that the OHCHR was alarmed by the sentencing of another five people, four of them minors, under the National Security Law in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China.
The UN Human Rights Office and several UN human rights mechanisms had repeatedly expressed concerns over the negative impact of the National Security Law on fundamental rights and freedoms in the Hong Kong SAR. OHCHR reminded the Hong Kong SAR authorities of their obligations under international human rights law, in particular the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
OHCHR statement can be accessed here.
Protests in Iran
Replying to questions, Ravina Shamdasani, for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that the OHCHR had had difficulty confirming the number of casualties, as the information was patchy. The use of lethal force had led to the killings of dozens of protesters, including children. At least 90 members of the civil society had been arrested. There were also worrying reports of killings of human rights defenders. Ms. Shamdasani stressed that there ought to be an independent investigation into Mahsa Amini’s death, which was one of the demands by the protesters.
James Elder, for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), stated that UNICEF was calling for protection of children from all forms of violence, including during protests. UNICEF did not have precise figures of children killed. The actual death toll of children could be higher than the reported double digits. Access and verification were very difficult. The Government should respect the right of children adolescents to raise their voices on issues of their concern, emphasized Mr. Elder.
Responding to questions, Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the Haiti Government data, as of 6 October, indicated that there had been 152 suspected cholera cases. Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service, added that, as of 9 October, UN humanitarian officers in Haiti were reporting that there had been 32 confirmed cases, 224 suspected cases, and 16 confirmed deaths.
Dr. Harris said that the WHO was very concerned about the cholera outbreaks in the world. One issue was a shortage of vaccines; climate-related fragility was another factor contributing to the current situation.
Margaret Harris, for the World Health Organization (WHO), informed that the next meeting of the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee for COVID 19 would be held on 13 October. The meeting would be closed, but its recommendations would be shared as soon as they were available.
Launch of WHO Report of the 2030 targets on effective coverage of eyecare would take place in New York today. The report would be shared once launched. Ms. Harris reminded that two billion people worldwide had a vision impairment.
She also informed that outcomes of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE)’s latest regular meeting would be presented at a press conference at 2 pm today.
Catherine Huissoud, for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), informed that this week UNCTAD would publish a brief on the impact of the Black Sea Grain Initiative on port activities. This short update would compare the situation before the war, during the first months, and after the Initiative had entered into force. It would be shared with the press corps.
Alessandra Vellucci, for the United Nations Information Service (UNIS), reminded that today at 1 pm in room B-128, there would be the launch of the WMO of Climate Services report: Energy. Speakers would be Petteri Taalas, WMO Secretary-General, and Gauri Singh, International Renewable Energy Agency Deputy Director-General.
Ms. Vellucci also informed that the launch of a report on the global status of multi-hazard early warning systems would take place at hybrid press conference on 13 October, the International Day on Disaster Risk Reduction, at 11 am. Speaker would be Loretta, Hieber Girardet, Chief of the Risk Knowledge, Monitoring and Capacity Development Branch at the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was reviewing today the report of Finland.
The Human Rights Committee was concluding this morning the review of the report of the Philippines. This afternoon, it would begin consideration of the report of Kyrgyzstan.
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights would conclude its 72nd session on 14 October at 5:30 pm.
The elections to the Human Rights Council would start at the General Assembly in New York at 4 pm Geneva time, informed Ms. Vellucci.
Finally, Ms. Vellucci said that today was the International Day of the Girl Child, on which occasion the Secretary-General’s message had been shared. 16 October, the World Food Day, had the theme “Leave No One Behind”. A series of activities would be organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization and partners, including in Geneva.