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World News in Brief: ‘Appalling’ attacks in Kharkiv, plea to aid Myanmar civilians, maritime tribunal boosts climate action, civilian protection

Denise Brown said civilian lives must be protected during conflict by all sides, but in Kharkiv in recent days, they have instead been targeted in their homes, with businesses and transport links damaged and attacked.

“My thoughts are with the families who have lost their loved ones due to the strikes,” she said, adding that as a result of the “appalling” attacks, thousands of civilians, including some older people and persons with disabilities, have been forced to flee “leaving their entire lives behind”.

Support for the displaced

UN and humanitarian partners have been supporting evacuees from the outlying villages of Kharkiv close to the Russian border, Ukraine’s second city.

UN Children’s Fund UNICEF’s top official in Ukraine Munir Mammadzade told UN News on Wednesday that “each and every relocation or displacement is a lifetime trauma for these children.

“They have already been traumatised since the escalation of the war. The frontline areas are regularly attacked and shelled. They were already experiencing mental health problems.”

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International action ‘crucial’ to save thousands of Rohingya lives in Myanmar’s Rakhine state

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Thousands of innocent lives will be lost if the international community fails to respond to “ominous signs” of another bloodbath of the mostly-Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, an independent UN human rights expert said on Thursday.

The UN Human Rights Council-appointed Special Rapporteur monitoring Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said the world “seems to be failing a desperate people in their hour of peril while a hate-driven unnatural disaster unfolds in real time”.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fled systematic attacks by Burmese security forces in 2017, crossing the border into Bangladesh in what the then UN human rights chief described as a “text book example of ethnic cleansing”.

Credible sources

Mr. Andrews said there were alarming and credible reports of killings, enforced disappearances and widespread arson across northern Rakhine in recent days, warranting an “immediate emergency response” by the international community.

With multiple armed groups operating in Rakhine as insurgents battle forces of the military junta for control, he called on all combatants to observe international humanitarian law.

“Mechanisms to provide emergency humanitarian aid must be immediately established and all parties must support the robust infusion of aid into Rakhine,” the expert said.

Maritime tribunal makes ‘unprecedented’ ruling obliging countries to reduce emissions

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A group of independent UN rights experts on Thursday applauded the “unprecedented” ruling from the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea earlier this week that countries have an obligation to reduce carbon emissions.

The ruling said emissions which are stoking global warming qualify as marine pollution. It’s the first ruling of three cases seeking advisory opinions from international courts on climate change measures.

The UN experts said the judgement “provides timely guidance” and makes an explicit reference to human rights issues.

The tribunal ruled that countries have obligations to protect the marine environment from climate change impacts and ocean acidification.

Small victory, big consequences

It’s being seen as an important victory for small island developing States which are on the frontline of climate change who are gathering in Antigua and Barbuda next week for a major conference to chart the way forward for sustainable development.

The experts said obligations placed on countries under maritime law are “essential for climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as for healthy ecosystems to effectively and equitably tackle the triple planetary crisis that undermines the effective enjoyment of human rights”.

Special Rapporteurs and other UN rights experts are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organisation.

Protection of civilians must outweigh ‘narrow interests’

Marking Protection of Civilians Week, UN relief chief Martin Griffiths has called on world leaders to “forge a path away from narrow interests” towards a future of protection for all.

He said it was “vital to go above and beyond compliance [with international humanitarian and human rights law]: to strive for the full protection of civilians against the full range of harms.” 

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Security Council’s consideration of the protection of civilians as an item on its agenda and the 75th anniversary of the Geneva Convention.

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