World News in Brief: Dozens killed in Mali ‘summary executions’, Ukraine update, civilian protection in DR Congo, Haiti human rights

World News in Brief: Dozens killed in Mali ‘summary executions’, Ukraine update, civilian protection in DR Congo, Haiti human rights

UN human rights chief Volker Türk expressed his shock on Thursday at credible reports alleging that Malian armed forces and foreign military personnel executed at least 25 people last week.

The alleged massacre happened in Welingara village in the Nara region of central Mali on 26 January. Some 30 civilians were also reportedly killed by unidentified gunmen in the Bandiagara region at the weekend.

In his call for impartial investigations into the allegations, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights emphasized the need for justice in accordance with international standards.

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‘Agents and allies’

Mr. Türk also urged the Malian authorities to ensure that their troops – “as well as their agents or allies” – adhered to human rights law and international humanitarian law, particularly regarding the protection of civilians.

A fact-finding report from the UN human rights office, OHCHR, released last May in relation to allegations of a massacre of over 500 people in the village of Moura in March 2022, documented witnesses who described “armed white men” fighting alongside Malian soldiers.

This report followed allegations made a year ago by independent UN rights experts that the Russia-based Wagner mercenary group had been involved, describing a “climate of terror and impunity” surrounding the military contractors’ activities in Mali.

OHCHR has previously verified two other incidents involving the alleged killings of at least 31 civilians by Malian armed forces and “allied foreign military personnel” last September and October.

In the September killings, 14 herders were allegedly executed in Ndoupa in the Segou region while on 5 October, 17 civilians were reportedly executed in Ersane village in the Gao region.

No official investigations into these incidents have been reported, OHCHR noted.

Deaths, injuries and destruction continues in Ukraine-Russia war

New attacks in eastern Ukraine on Thursday have led to injuries and damage to civilian infrastructure, the UN Spokesperson told reporters in New York on Thursday.

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A hospital in Kharkiv was damaged in an attack on Wednesday, with several injured and many evacuated, according to Ukraine’s national rescue service, he said.

A health facility also sustained damages in Toretsk, in the Donetsk region, as reported by the regional administration.

“In frontline areas, our humanitarian colleagues note that the continued hostilities in the Donetsk and Kherson regions of Ukraine are continuing to kill and injure civilians. Homes, education facilities, public transport, water, electricity and [heating] facilities have also been damaged,” he continued, citing local authorities.

A humanitarian hub run by a local non-governmental organization (NGO) in Kherson was also hit on Thursday.

“Despite the challenges of operating in frontline areas, aid organizations continue to provide assistance,” the UN Spokesperson said.

“In recent days, we, along with our humanitarian partners, have provided emergency repair materials as well as [psychological] and legal support in the Donetsk and Kharkiv regions.”

Peacekeepers provide new humanitarian corridor in DR Congo

Peacekeepers are “continuing to do their utmost to protect civilians” in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) amid ongoing clashes between the M23 rebel group and Congolese armed forces.

That’s according to UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric, who reminded correspondents at the regular Noon Briefing that the UN Stabilization Mission, MONUSCO, has established a temporary presence in Mweso following clashes in the area of North Kivu.

“Peacekeepers have also created a humanitarian corridor, which has allowed more than 1,000 displaced men, women and children to move to safer ground”, he said.

The UN Mission is continuing to protect and provide medical assistance to displaced communities taking refuge near its base in Kitchanga, which is about 15 kilometres from Mweso, Mr. Dujarric said.

The mission said it had helped evacuate eight Congolese soldiers to Goma who had been wounded in the fighting with the M23. The UN will monitor the situation closely, he added.

MONUSCO is due to withdraw completely from DRC at the request of the government by the end of 2024, but while ‘blue helmets” may be withdrawing, the UN has repeatedly said that it will continue providing support to the Congolese people in the long-term.

Haiti: UN human rights report shows spike in violence

The last quarter of 2023 saw another rise in violence across Haiti, with reports of 2,327 victims of murder, wounding and kidnapping, marking an eight per cent increase compared to the previous three months.

That’s according to the latest quarterly update from the UN integrated office in the crisis-wracked Caribbean island nation, BINUH.

People who have fled their homes due to insecurity find shelter at a theatre in downtown Port-au-Prince.
© UNOCHA/Giles Clarke
People who have fled their homes due to insecurity find shelter at a theatre in downtown Port-au-Prince.

The total number of recorded victims for the year was more than 8,400. Much of the rise is due to violence at the hands of organized crime gangs, particularly in the Artibonite and the southern outskirts of the capital, with an upsurge in sexual violence recorded in several areas.

UN Special Representative and Head of BINUH, Maria Isabel Salvador, stressed that this violence is fuelling chronic insecurity and undermining social stability.

The report also reveals the serious impact on children, with at least 53 child victims of violence or other crimes. It also highlights the threat to humanitarian aid on the roads due to gang control of highways.

The judicial system has also been impacted although there are some signs of improvement, including a reduction in pre-trial detention.

During the quarter, 400 cases were processed resulting in the release of more than 258 people. However, there has been a rise in police casualties, highlighting persistent insecurity, BINUH said.

The report calls on the international community to keep Haiti high on its agenda and support the implementation of the planned Multinational Security Support Mission for Haiti.

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