Articles for this Update were compiled by the City Bar's Committee on the United Nations.

Israeli-Palestinian peace process entering critical period, UN envoy tells Security Council

A senior United Nations envoy told the Security Council that the Middle East peace process is entering a critical period that requires “courageous” steps by Israelis and Palestinians to save the two-State solution, warning that the consequences of inaction could be dire for everyone. The Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, also noted that ongoing events in the region could influence the peace process itself, including this week’s elections in Israel, recent polls in Jordan, and the start of US President Barack Obama’s second term.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43986

UN refugee agency reports growing number of people displaced by fighting in Mali

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that the number of people fleeing the fighting in Mali is increasing, amidst reports of growing food shortages. Including those displaced this month, approximately 147,000 Malians have found refuge in neighboring countries since the crisis in Mali started in January last year, according to the UNHCR.

Fighting between Malian Government forces and Tuareg rebels broke out in northern Mali last January, following which radical Islamists seized control of the area. The renewed clashes in the country’s north, as well as the proliferation of armed groups in the region, drought, and political instability in the wake of a military coup d’état in March have uprooted hundreds of thousands of civilians over the course of the past year.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43976

The report: http://www.unhcr.org/50feb2966.html

Security Council sharpens sanctions on DPR Korea in wake of ballistic missile launch

In response to a December 2012 missile launch by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the United Nations Security Council again demanded an end to the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic tests and more sharply focused its sanctions against the country. Reportedly, a long-range Unha-3 rocket was launched from a site on the DPRK’s west coast, and soared over Okinawa, Japan, dropping debris into the sea off the Korean Peninsula, the East China Sea and waters near the Philippines, according to media reports.

The sanctions include a travel ban and asset freeze of officials of the DPRK’s missile launch facility and the satellite control center, as well as a banking official involved in the construction of the missile, as listed in annexes to resolution 2087 (2013). Companies and committees involved in the launch are also named as subject to the asset freeze. The Council also called on Member States to exercise “enhanced vigilance” in preventing the transfer of funds related to the DPRK’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles programs.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43982

UN-African Union mission in Darfur reaffirms support for resumed peace talks

Following the announcement by the Sudanese Government and one of the rebel groups of their resumed talks to end conflict in the region, the United Nations-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID) today reaffirmed its readiness to assist all parties. “The African Union, the United Nations and other national and international actors stand ready to assist the parties, and to support successful negotiations,” said the Acting Joint Special Representative of UNAMID and Joint Chief Mediator, Aichatou Mindaoudou.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43969

UN official disappointed by new reports of child soldiers in Central African Republic

New reports of continuing child recruitment by armed groups in the Central African Republic (CAR) have drawn concern from Leila Zerrougui, of the office of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. Ms. Zerrougui expressed disappointment, stating that “child recruitment is a grave violation. Children separated from armed forces and groups are victims, not perpetrators, and have to be treated as such.”

According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), even before the latest round of violence in CAR erupted in December last year, about 2,500 children – both girls and boys – were associated with multiple armed groups, including self-defense groups, in CAR.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43972

Arab nations must broaden reforms to improve lives and advance equality, says Ban

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged Arab nations to deepen and broaden the reforms already under way in order to improve lives, enhance opportunities, and advance equality in the region.

In remarks delivered by Rima Khalaf, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Mr. Ban applauded many of the reforms that are occurring in the region, but noted that the “challenge now is to deepen and broaden reform efforts,” especially for youth and women. Mr. Ban also noted that development in the Arab region has been impeded “by protracted conflict, injustice and occupation.”

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43967

New UN report highlights ongoing problem of torture in Afghan detention facilities

According to the latest report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), more than half of the 635 conflict-related detainees interviewed experienced ill-treatment and torture, particularly in 34 facilities of the Afghan National Police (ANP) and the National Directorate of Security (NDS) between October 2011 and October 2012. The report cited abusive interrogation techniques used to obtain a confession or information, where Afghan officials inflicted severe pain and suffering on detainees. In total, fourteen methods of torture and ill-treatment were described similar to practices previously documented by the UNAMA.

The UNAMA noted that while both the NDS and the Ministry of Interior stated that they investigated allegations of ill-treatment, it is unclear whether any of these internal probes resulted in the prosecution or loss of jobs of Afghan officials for involvement in torturing detainees or for having failed to prevent torture.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43964

The report: http://unama.unmissions.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=VsBL0S5b37o%3d&

Myanmar: Ban welcomes announcement of ceasefire in Kachin state, follows implementation

The authorities in Myanmar reportedly announced a unilateral cease-fire on Friday following a three-week offensive against ethnic Kachin rebel fighters. In light of the Government’s announcement, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called upon “both sides to make serious effort to create conditions for sustained peace in Kachin through enhanced confidence building measures and political dialogue.” The UN Secretary-General has also called for renewed access to vulnerable civilian populations in the area to enable the supply of humanitarian assistance to them. Since fighting began in June 2011 between Government troops and rebels, approximately 75,000 people have fled their homes in Kachin.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43965

Security Council condemns terrorist attack in Algeria

Last week's terrorist attack at the gas facility in Amenas, Algeria, which resulted in numerous deaths and injuries, has drawn strong condemnation from members of the Security Council. In a statement issued to the press last night by Ambassador Masood Khan of Pakistan, which holds the rotating Council presidency for January, the Security Council members “expressed their deep sympathy and sincere condolences to the victims of these heinous acts and their families and to the people and Governments of Algeria and those countries whose nationals have been affected.”

The members of the Security Council underlined that the perpetrators, organizers, financiers, and sponsors of “these reprehensible acts of terrorism” must be brought to justice, and urged all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with the Algerian authorities in this regard.

Full story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43962

Zimbabwe: UN condemns attacks on human rights defenders ahead of elections

The United Nations human rights arm condemned recent attacks against human rights defenders in Zimbabwe ahead of elections expected later this year, citing arbitrary arrests, intimidation and harassment of non-governmental organizations and persons seen as critical of current President Robert Mugabe’s rule. In the most recent case, the police pressed charges against the director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) and chairperson of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Okay Machisa. Mr. Machisa was accused of publishing false statements prejudicial to the State, fraud, and forgery after allegedly conducting illegal voter registration. Mr. Machisa handed himself to the police on 14 January, accompanied by his lawyer, and remains in detention.

Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43954

Iran: UN welcomes temporary release of imprisoned human rights defender

Lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is serving a six-year sentence in Iran, was granted a three day, temporary release today, which was welcomed by the United Nations human rights office. Ms. Sotoudeh was arrested in September 2010 on charges linked to her work as a human rights defender. She was subsequently banned from practicing law for 10 years. Last October, Ms. Sotoudeh began a hunger strike to protest against her prison conditions as well as the travel ban imposed on her husband and 12-year-old daughter. The travel restrictions against Ms. Sotoudeh’s family were lifted in December. “We hope that the temporary leave will be extended, and that Ms. Sotoudeh will soon be indefinitely released,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Full Story: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43955

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