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UN to investigate Saudi Arabia’s human rights record

Saudi Arabia faces international condemnation for its apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi and its ongoing war in Yemen. The UK and the US are reportedly working on a joint resolution to end hostilities. The United Nations Human Rights Council is to debate on Monday the dismal human rights record of Saudi Arabia following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The so-called Universal Periodic Review, a compulsory review carried out every four years, will also focus on Riyadh's role in Yemen's civil war. Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he will lobby the UN Security Council to try and find a political solution to four years of hostilities in Yemen. At least 10,000 have been killed in the conflict between a Saudi-backed coalition and Iran-backed Houthi rebels, and half the nation faces imminent starvation. Hunt's announcement came after Washington, which has long backed the Saudis, called for Riyadh to end its airstrikes in the country. UN diplomats, speaking anonymously, told Reuters news agency that Britain and the US were working on a joint resolution to stop the fighting in Yemen. Public grilling The half-day public debate will see a Saudi delegation, headed by the country's Human Rights Commission chief, Bandar Al Aiban, grilled by other nations over its human rights record. Activists have urged countries to hold Saudi Arabia to account. "UN member states must end their deafening silence on Saudi Arabia and do their duty of scrutinizing the cruelty in the kingdom in order to prevent further outrageous human rights violations in the country and in Yemen," Samah Hadid, Amnesty International's Middle East director of campaigns, said in a statement. "The Saudi government's long-standing repression of critics, exemplified by the extrajudicial execution of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last month, has until recently been willfully ignored by UN member states," she added. According to publicly submitted questions, Britain, Austria and Switzerland will directly ask about the Khashoggi case. Sweden will ask how it plans to improve respect for the freedom of expression and the safety of journalists. The US will ask whether Riyadh plans to modify its counterterrorism law to ensure the definition of "terrorism" does "not include acts of expression, association, or peaceful assembly." Ahead of the review, the UN rights office published a list of concerns about human rights in Saudi Arabia, including discrimination against women, continued use of the death penalty, and "extremely broad" definitions of terrorism that enable "the criminalization of some acts of peaceful expression."

Saudi Arabia faces international condemnation for its apparent murder of Jamal Khashoggi and its ongoing war in Yemen. The UK and the US are reportedly working on a joint resolution to end hostilities. The United Nations Human Rights Council is to debate on Monday the dismal human rights record of Saudi Arabia following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The ... Read More »

Russia: US airstrikes on Syria illegal

Russia's envoy to the UN has accused the US of violating international law by carrying out airstrikes on Syria. US envoy Nikki Haley said the strikes were justified and threatened further action. Russia's deputy envoy to the UN, Vladimir Safronkov, on Friday warned that the US' airstrikes on a Syrian base could have damaging consequences on regional and global stability. "The United States attacked the territory of sovereign Syria," Safronkov said during an emergency UN Security Council meeting in New York. "We describe that attack as a flagrant violation of international law and an act of aggression." The comments come after the US launched a barrage of Tomahawk missiles on a Syrian airbase in Shayrat in the early hours of Friday morning. The White House said the attack was in retaliation to an alleged chemical strike earlier this week on the Syrian rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed more than 80 people. Read more: Seven decades, seven facts: US policy on Syria in brief The United States' Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said the response was "fully justified" and warned that the US was prepared to do more but hoped that it would not come to that. "The United States will not stand by when chemical weapons are used," Haley said. "It is in our vital national security interest to prevent the spread and use of chemical weapons." Britain and the UK came out in the strong support of the US strikes, saying that such a response was "appropriate" after Tuesday's possible chemical attack. Both the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and its allies in Moscow have denied perpetrating the attack, saying any nerve agents released must have belonged to the rebels and could have been hit by a conventional strike. Report: US investigating Russian involvement in gas attack The Associated Press (AP) press agency reported that US military officials were probing whether Russia had participated in the alleged chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun. A US official, speaking to AP on condition of anonymity, reported of a Russian or Syrian drone seen hovering over the site of Tuesday's attack and was seen again later as citizens scampered into a nearby hospital for treatment. The hospital was reportedly bombed shortly afterwards in what may have been a bid to cover up the attack. The US military said it was still reviewing the evidence. Russia vows to bolster Syrian air defenses Following Friday morning's attack, Russian officials promised to strengthen the Syrian army's air defenses to protect both Syrian and Russian military infrastructure. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said that a "complex of measures" designed to strengthen the Syrian army's defense capabilities would be implemented to help "protect the most sensitive Syrian infrastructure facilities." Russia had previously supplied the Assad regime with state-of-the-art S-300 and S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems. Konashenkov also said that Russia's own air defense systems were reliably protecting its warplanes at the Hemeimeem air base in the Syrian province of Latakia, as well as on its navy outpost in Syria's Mediterranean port of Tartus.

Russia’s envoy to the UN has accused the US of violating international law by carrying out airstrikes on Syria. US envoy Nikki Haley said the strikes were justified and threatened further action. Russia’s deputy envoy to the UN, Vladimir Safronkov, on Friday warned that the US’ airstrikes on a Syrian base could have damaging consequences on regional and global stability. ... Read More »

Iran’s parliament to review historic nuclear deal

Iran's foreign minister has submitted the nuclear deal struck with world powers last week to parliament for review. Under the agreement, Tehran will have to curb its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif defended the landmark pact before the country's parliament on Tuesday, telling lawmakers the terms were "unique" and "balanced." "We don't say the deal is totally in favor of Iran," Zarif said in a speech to the house. "Any deal is a give and take and each side gives up part of its demands to realize the more important part, until what has been given and received is balanced." The agreement was reached in Vienna last week following drawn-out negotiations between Iran and six world powers - the US, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany (known collectively as the P5+1). The deal requires Iran's nuclear program to be reined in for one decade in exchange for billions of dollars worth of relief from EU, UN and US sanctions. Zarif, who led Iran's negotiating team at the talks, told the parliament that he had been able to gain the "key objectives on which we insisted." Under Iran's constitution, parliament has a right to reject any deal, even one negotiated by the foreign ministry. The text will also be subject to approval by Iran's National Security Council and, ultimately, by conservative cleric Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Hardline critics On Monday, the UN Security Council unanimously endorsed the agreement, and authorized measures that would clear the way for UN sanctions to be lifted. The Security Council also approved a provision allowing sanctions to automatically snap back into place should Iran renege on its promises. Some hardliners in the conservative-dominated parliament have opposed the nuclear deal from the start, arguing that it demands too many concessions from Tehran. Many politicians have also raised concerns about the UN's "snap back" provision. Zarif sought to allay their fears in his address on Tuesday, saying reversing the agreement would exact a "heavy price" on the other side as well. "If for any reason Security Council sanctions are re-imposed, Iran will not be obliged to abide by its commitments," he said. Western countries have long feared that Iran is covertly seeking to develop nuclear weapons, but Tehran maintains its nuclear program is solely for civilian and scientific purposes. Under the agreement, Iran will have to accept a more rigorous inspection program, dismantle two thirds of its centrifuges for enriching uranium, and get rid of 98 percent of its uranium stockpile. Ayatollah Khamenei hasn't delivered his verdict, although over the weekend he said he would not allow "Iran's security and defense capabilities" to be threatened.

Iran’s foreign minister has submitted the nuclear deal struck with world powers last week to parliament for review. Under the agreement, Tehran will have to curb its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif defended the landmark pact before the country’s parliament on Tuesday, telling lawmakers the terms were “unique” and “balanced.” “We don’t ... Read More »

UN Security Council votes to name and shame governments, groups who abduct children

The UN Security Council has held an open debate on children affected by conflict. It adopted a resolution to name and shame governments and armed groups which abduct children in armed conflicts. The resolution adopted by the Security Council on Thursday expressed grave concern at the abduction of children in conflict. It stated that abduction often preceded or followed other abuses against them, ranging from their use as child soldiers to rape and death. The Council heard that more than 200 million children were caught up in armed conflict. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Council that "abduction is now being used as a tactic to terrorize or target particular ethnic groups or religious communities, and children have been a particular focus." Leila Zerrougui, the UN special representative for children in armed conflict, told the Council that "the response to abductions needs to be scaled up to address this increasing trend - including through early warning mechanisms." Last year was one of the worst in recent memory for children living in conflict areas such as South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Iraq, Syria and Nigeria. Added to list of 'trigger' crimes In 2005, the Council approved a resolution to identify governments and armed groups that recruited child soldiers. Four years later it voted to name and shame countries and groups engaged in conflicts which led to children being killed, maimed and raped. Thursday's resolution added the abduction of children in conflict as a reason for a government or armed group to be listed as a violator of children's rights. Those on the list can face action by the Security Council, including sanctions. "By adding abductions as the fifth "trigger" violation, the Council makes it possible for responsible parties to be held to account," Eva Smets from the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict said. "This is a laudable step towards enhancing the international community's ability to protect children," she added.

The UN Security Council has held an open debate on children affected by conflict. It adopted a resolution to name and shame governments and armed groups which abduct children in armed conflicts. The resolution adopted by the Security Council on Thursday expressed grave concern at the abduction of children in conflict. It stated that abduction often preceded or followed other ... Read More »

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