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World News In Brief: Children In Eastern DR Congo, Iran Death Sentence, Support For Haiti

A senior official with the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, appealed on Monday for urgent action to support diplomatic and long-term solutions to address the conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Concluding a five-day visit to the region, UNICEF Deputy Director Ted Chaiban noted that fighting has reached new heights and created the worst humanitarian crisis there since 2003.

He highlighted growing concerns for safeguarding children’s rights and protection of civilians as the situation worsens.

Grave violations mount

“Children are being killed, maimed, abducted, and recruited by armed groups with verified grave violations the highest ever; their rights to education and a safe childhood have been shattered,” he said.

UNICEF warned that the all-time high of 7.2 million internally displaced persons in eastern DRC could further spiral as armed groups take control of ever more territory and as fighting spreads.

These developments are occurring at the same time as the UN peacekeeping mission begins to depart from the country.

“We are seeing growing numbers of children killed and wounded with the recent shift to the use of heavier and sophisticated arms,” Mr. Chaiban said.

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While in the region, he met with Congolese authorities and visited sites hosting thousands of displaced families.

“The only way to reduce this suffering is to double down on efforts by regional actors and the international community to negotiate a political solution to the conflict, including the Luanda process, Nairobi dialogue and other diplomatic efforts,” he said.

Rights experts urge Iran to revoke death sentence against activist

UN-appointed human rights experts on Monday urged Iran to revoke the death sentence against an anti-corruption activist.

Mahmoud Mehrabi was convicted on charges of “corruption on Earth”, a term they said “refers to a broad range of offences, including blasphemy and ‘crimes’ relating to Islamic morals”.

He was rearrested on 16 March 2023 in connection with his online activism on justice and corruption.

He later faced additional charges, including propaganda against the state, incitement of police and military forces to disobedience, incitement to war, crimes against national security and insulting the founder and Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

“It is alarming that Iran’s punishments for freedom of expression include the death penalty or long-term prison sentences,” the experts said, noting that local rapper Tomaj Salehi also received the death penalty two weeks ago.

They noted that at least five people were sentenced to death in connection with nationwide protests in 2022 against the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody. At least 15 others are at imminent risk.

“We urge Iranian authorities to amend the Constitution and the penal code to prohibit executions and commute all death sentences,” they said.

The statement was issued by Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran; Alice Jill Edwards, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

The experts receive their mandates from the UN Human Rights Council. They are not UN staff and do not receive payment for their work.

Humanitarians continue support to Haitians affected by gang violence

Aid organisations continue to provide emergency assistance to thousands of people across Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, amid ongoing gang activity, UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, reported on Monday.

OCHA warned that some residents are extremely vulnerable, with armed groups continuing to perpetrate coordinated attacks.

On Friday, the commune of Gressier, south of Port-au-Prince, was attacked and several houses set on fire, forcing an unknown number of people to flee.

Humanitarian partners are conducting assessments both in Gressier and nearby areas where people fled.

Currently, some 362,000 people are displaced in Haiti, half of them children, with 160,000 in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area.

During the period from 8 March through 9 April, some 95,000 people fled the capital, 60 per cent of them to the southern departments, according to UN migration agency IOM.

Humanitarians remain steadfast in their commitment to assist the Haitian people. Since March, the World Food Programme (WFP) has helped more than 800,000 people nationwide through its school feeding, emergency and resilience programmes.

WFP has also distributed more than 825,000 meals to over 95,000 displaced people in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan zone.

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