The allegation that Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poisoned by a Cold War-era nerve agent is “a matter of grave concern”, the head of the UN-backed Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said on Thursday.
Mr. Navalny, a prominent anti-corruption activist, remains in a coma two weeks after falling violently ill during a flight from the town of Tomsk, in Siberia, to Moscow. He was later airlifted to Berlin for treatment, after Russian authorities allowed him to be moved.
The German government reported on Wednesday that toxicology tests conducted by a special military laboratory revealed he had been poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.
“Under the Chemical Weapons Convention, any poisoning of an individual through the use of a nerve agent is considered a use of chemical weapons. Such an allegation is a matter of grave concern,” said OPCW chief Fernando Arias in a statement responding to the announcement.
“States Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention deem the use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances as reprehensible and wholly contrary to the legal norms established by the international community.”
UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric was also asked about the German report during his regular press briefing on Wednesday, replying, “we’ve said and previously mentioned that, if warranted, the issue should be investigated by relevant authorities.”
Novichok is the name of a group of seven toxic chemical agents developed by the former Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s.
Two years ago, former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were victims of a chemical agent attack in Salisbury, England.
The United Kingdom alleged that novichok was used in that incident. An OPCW investigating team later confirmed the UK’s findings, though the organization did not specifically name the substance used.
Israel: ‘Halt and reverse’ new settlement construction
Israel’s decision to advance plans for some 800 new settlement units, most of which are located deep inside the occupied West Bank, has sparked the concern of UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
In a statement issued on Monday by his spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, the UN chief urged the Israeli Government to “halt and reverse such decisions”, calling them “a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-State solution, and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace”.
‘No legal validity’
Mr. Guterres reiterated that Israel’s establishing of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, “has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law”.
“Settlement expansion increases the risk of confrontation, further undermines the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and further erodes the possibility of ending the occupation and establishing a contiguous and viable sovereign Palestinian State, based on the pre-1967 lines”, he said.
Israel has given the green light to 780 new homes in West Bank settlements on Sunday in a move widely seen as being influenced by the imminent transfer of power in the United States.
Breaking with decades of US diplomacy, outgoing President Donald Trump, in 2019 unilaterally declared that the settlements no longer breached international law.
Against that backdrop, Israel has been increasing construction and either approved or made plans for more than 12,000 homes in 2020, according to news reports.
Spectre of unrest, violent repression looming over Haiti
Increasing political tensions in Haiti coupled with insecurity and structural inequalities could result in protests followed by violent crackdowns by authorities, the United Nations human rights office (OHCHR) warned on Tuesday.
According to the office, criminal activities, such as kidnappings, gang fights and widespread insecurity have increased, with “almost total” impunity.
Added to the volatile mix is resurging political tensions over the timing and scope of elections and a constitutional referendum proposed by the Government, OHCHR spokesperson Marta Hurtado told journalists at a regular briefing in Geneva.
“Calls for mass protests have been growing. This in turn raises concerns of renewed human rights violations by security forces during the policing of protests as seen during the months-long protests in 2018 and 2019, as well as during demonstrations in October and November of last year.”
According to an OHCHR report on the unrest, protests started relatively peacefully in July 2018 but became increasingly violent over time, with many violations and abuses of the rights to life, security of the person and effective remedy.
‘Pattern of violations’
The report also documented violations to the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. In 2019 demonstrations, barricades were set up that blocked people’s access to hospitals and passage of ambulances. Health facilities were also attacked, severely impacting the daily lives of the Haitian people, particularly those in a vulnerable situation.
In addition, protesters and criminal elements imposed “passage fees”, further impeding the movement of people and goods and exacerbating economic hardship.
“The report shows a pattern of human rights violations and abuses followed by near lack of accountability,” Ms. Hurtado said.
The OHCHR spokesperson called on Haitian authorities to take “immediate action” to avoid repetition of such violations and abuses by ensuring that law enforcement officers abide by international norms and standards regarding the use of force when dealing with protests; as well as ensuring that gangs do not interfere with people’s right to demonstrate peacefully.
She also urged the Government to guarantee accountability for past violations and abuses, ensuring justice, truth, and reparations. Alongside, Haiti should take steps to address people’s grievances and the root causes that fuelled the protests, she added.
“OHCHR stands ready to continue supporting State authorities in their fulfilment of human rights international obligations [and] expresses its willingness to continue working towards the establishment of a country office,” Ms. Hurtado said, welcoming commitments made by the Haitian National Police to reform practices documented in the report.
Child labour ‘robs children of their future’, scourge must end
Although child labour has decreased significantly over the last decade, one-in-ten children are still caught up in harmful work, the UN’s labour agency said on Friday, kicking off a year-long bid to eradicate the practice.
Breaking down the stats
While the number has dropped from 246 million in 2000 to 152 million in 2016, ILO noted uneven progress across regions.
It pointed to some 72 million children working in Africa, which account for almost half of the world’s total. This is followed by Asia and the Pacific, home to 62 million child labourers.
ILO highlighted that 70 per cent of these children work in agriculture – mainly in subsistence and commercial farming and livestock herding – and almost half in occupations or situations considered hazardous to their health and lives.
The COVID factor
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has considerably exacerbated the situation by rendering everyone more vulnerable to exploitation, compounding poverty within defenseless populations and jeopardizing hard-fought gains in the fight against child labour.
Furthermore, school closures have pushed millions more children into the labour market, so they can contribute to the family income.
“With COVID-19 threatening to reverse years of progress, we need to deliver on promises now more than ever”, said the ILO chief.
A year of action
On a positive note, ILO said that joint and decisive action can reverse this trend.
In collaboration with the Alliance 8.7 global partnership, ILO launched the International Year for the Elimination of Child Labour to encourage legislative and practical actions to eradicate child labour worldwide.
Target 8.7 calls for immediate measures to end forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking while also eliminating the worst forms of child labour, including use of child soldiers, and by 2025 ending child labour in all its forms.
The 12-month campaign will also prepare the ground for the fifth Global Conference on Child Labour (VGC) in 2022, which will welcome additional commitments towards ending child labour in all its forms by 2025, and forced labour, human trafficking and modern slavery by 2030.
“This International Year is an opportunity for governments to step up and achieve Target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals by taking concrete actions to eliminate child labour for good”.
Indian Farmers Protest Against the Parliament’s Encroaching Bills
The new agricultural reforms in India aim to permit farmers to offer their produce to private purchasers beyond a state-run...
Israel: ‘Halt and reverse’ new settlement construction
Israel’s decision to advance plans for some 800 new settlement units, most of which are located deep inside the occupied...
U.S. Trade Deficits Increase from Covid
America’s trade deficit (excess of imports minus exports) reached its minimum in February 2020, and since then has increased 84%...
An Enemy Among Us
The upcoming talks regarding the tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, that are due to take place on January 25, should...
Thorny path towards peace and reconciliation in Karabakh
On January 11 the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a deal to develop cross-border transportation routes and boost...
WHO chief warns against ‘catastrophic moral failure’ in COVID-19 vaccine access
A “me-first approach” to COVID-19 vaccines on the part of some countries and manufacturers is putting equitable access to these...
Hidden History – 1977 Terrorist Attacks in Moscow
On January 8, 1977,a series of terrorist attacks struck Moscow city, the capital of the Soviet Union. Three explosions occurred...
Europe2 days ago
The projection of Turkish power in the Eastern Mediterranean
South Asia3 days ago
Is India fearful of internationalisation of the Kashmir dispute?
Middle East2 days ago
Morocco Increases Pressure on Hezbollah by Arresting One of its Alleged Financiers
Tech News3 days ago
Earth Observation Data Could Represent A Billion-Dollar Opportunity For Africa
East Asia3 days ago
Pro-Communism warping Hong Kong
Europe3 days ago
Recovery action plan of the Union: On Next Generation EU & a New Independent authority?
Economy2 days ago
Bitcoin Price Bubble: A Mirror to the Financial Crisis?
Reports3 days ago
Lao Economy Set to Recover if Threats Can Be Contained