UN rights experts hail Myanmar journalists’ release

            By Erdogan Cagatay Zontur</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) - UN human rights experts welcomed on Wednesday the release of two Reuters journalists in Myanmar but said they have serious concerns about the judicial process in the country and the fact that their guilty verdicts still stand.</p>  <p>Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, who had been detained since December 2017, were each sentenced to seven years in prison last September for allegedly breaching a colonial-era law by investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya men in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in 2017.</p>  <p>“While it is good news that Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo have been reunited with their families and will not have to carry out the remainder of their sentences, their convictions under the Official Secrets Act have not been withdrawn and they should never have been prosecuted in the first place,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, and the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye.</p>  <p>  “We remain terribly concerned about the state of media freedom and the democratic space in Myanmar. The authorities have a considerable way to go to in law, policy and institution-building to ensure a minimum level of democratic space, which is particularly important in the lead-up to national elections next year,” the statement said.</p>  <p>  The two Reuters journalists were among 6,520 inmates released Tuesday under a third round of pardons by Myanmar President Win Myint to celebrate the traditional New Year, which began April 17.</p>  <p>&quot;I’m really happy and excited to see my family and my colleagues,&quot; Wa Lone told a crowd of reporters after his release.</p>  <p>    <p> Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.</p>  <p>According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.</p>  <p>Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).</p>  <p>The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- and brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces. </p>  <p>In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity and genocidal intent.

UN urges journalists' safety after Anadolu's office hit

                 By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - It is vital that the safety of journalists be protected, regardless of theater, the UN said Tuesday after Anadolu Agency's Gaza office was leveled by Israeli shelling.  </p>  <p>&quot;In any conflict area it is important that journalists' safety be guaranteed,&quot; spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in response to a reporter's question about the attack. </p>  <p>Israeli warplanes hit the building Saturday housing Anadolu Agency's office in the Gaza Strip with at least five missiles following warning shots.</p>  <p>No casualties were reported, but the building was razed to ground.</p>  <p>*Betul Yuruk contributed to this report from the United Nations

1 million plant, animal species face extinction: UN

                             By Gozde Bayar</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) – About 1 million species of plants and animals are at risk of extinction with human activity contributing to the threats to nature, according to a UN report Monday.</p>  <p>The report drew global attention because it is the first comprehensive UN report on biodiversity.</p>  <p> “An average of around 25 percent of species in assessed animal and plant groups are threatened, suggesting that around 1 million species already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken to reduce the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss,” said the report compiled by 145 experts from 50 countries.</p>  <p>Human actions threaten more species with global extinction more than ever based on the systematic review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources, it said.</p>  <p>The report highlighted the increasing rate of global change in nature during the past 50 years and contended that land-use change has the most negative impact on nature since 1970, followed by the direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution and invasive species.</p>  <p>Armed conflicts also negatively affect the ecosystem and have indirect impacts such as displacement of people.</p>  <p>“In the past 50 years, the human population has doubled, the global economy has grown nearly 4-fold and global trade has grown 10-fold, together driving up the demands for energy and materials,” according to the report.</p>  <p>It added that nature can be conserved, restored and used sustainably with collective action for transformative changes across economic, social, political and technological factors.</p>  <p> </p>  <p> </p>  <p> 

Indonesia: Muslim groups urge UN action against Israel

             By Hayati Nupus and Umar Idris</p>  <p>JAKARTA (AA) - The two top Muslim groups in Indonesia on Sunday urged the UN to crack down on Israel in the wake of its airstrikes razing the Anadolu Agency office in the Gaza Strip.</p>  <p>Abdul Mu'ti, the secretary of Muhammadiyah, said Saturday’s attack violated international law.</p>  <p>&quot;Israel has clearly violated the sovereignty of other countries and media freedom,&quot; Mu'ti told Anadolu Agency.</p>  <p>The UN Security Council, said Mu'ti, must urge Israel to stop its aggression.</p>  <p>Likewise, Muslim countries and communities must not be silent in the face of Israeli violence, he added.</p>  <p>&quot;They must show Islamic solidarity with political support for Turkey, press freedom, and the nation's integrity,&quot; Mu'ti said.</p>  <p>Bahtiar Effendy, Muhammadiyah’s top foreign policy official, said the attack should be condemned not only by sympathizers and supporters of Palestine but also those who believe in freedom of expression.</p>  <p>&quot;This brutal act of Israel clearly wants to silence the mass media, which has been preaching the increasingly alarming condition of Gaza,&quot; Bahtiar said.</p>  <p>Despite its razed office, Bahtiar said Anadolu Agency will not shrink from reporting the facts of Israel violence on Palestine.</p>  <p>The attack will only confirm Anadolu Agency's confidence and commitment in carrying out its press functions, he said.</p>  <p>Muhammadiyah will always support the news opening the world’s eyes about what Israel is doing to Palestine, Bahtiar said.</p>  <p> </p>  <p>- ‘Inhuman act’</p>  <p><br>

Helmy Faishal Zain, the head of Nahdlatul Ulama’s (PNBU) Executive Board, said the attack was an inhuman act and wounded humanity.

"Violence in any form, and with any motives, is not justified, because it is a crime against humanity," said Helmy.

The PBNU, Helmy added, urged the UN to immediately investigate and take firm action against the perpetrators of the attack.

At the same time, added Helmy, the PBNU supports the Indonesian government taking proactive steps to help deal with extremism, terrorism, and conflict in the Middle East.

Robikin Emhas, a legal official at PBNU, hailed the press’ role in democracy, in informing and educating people.

"Threats and violence against the press cannot be justified and must be accounted for, both publicly and legally," Robikin said.

Israeli warplanes hit the Anadolu Agency building Saturday with at least five missiles after warning shots, reported the Anadolu Agency correspondent in Gaza.

No injuries or deaths were reported.

Geneva: 'Small group' meets on Syria

By Bayram Altug

GENEVA (AA) – The UN's special envoy for Syria met Friday in Geneva with top diplomats from a "small group" of countries.

Representatives from Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the U.K. and the U.S. attended the meeting with Geir O. Pedersen, aiming to revive the Geneva process, which has stagnated since December 2018.

Issues discussed at the consultation included the process towards political resolution to the Syrian conflict and the formation of a Syrian constitutional committee.

Attending the meeting on Washington's behalf was U.S. Special Envoy for Syria James Jeffrey, who described recent meetings with Turkish officials during a visit to Ankara as "positive and productive".

Bilateral talks between the participants are set to begin after the meeting comes to a close.

The group last met during sessions of the Geneva process on Sep.14, 2018 with UN envoy Staffan de Mistura.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres named Pedersen as the new UN special envoy for Syria last October.

Pedersen is set to meet with representatives of Turkey, Russia, and Iran — guarantors of the Astana peace process — later in May.

The Astana process has been successful in bringing a cease-fire in Syria and led to the creation of de-escalation zones across the war-torn country.

Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

  • Writing by Zehra Nur Duz

Tripoli gov't decries UN 'silence' on Haftar attacks

By Walid Abdullah

TRIPOLI (AA) – The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) on Sunday held the UN Security Council responsible for refraining from taking action regarding attacks on the Libyan capital by a rival government in eastern Libya.

In early April, Khalifa Haftar, commander of forces loyal to Libya’s eastern government, launched a campaign to capture Tripoli from the rival UN-recognized GNA.

The GNA "holds the UN mission and Security Council responsible for their silence and complacency towards the actions of the criminal Haftar", the Tripoli-based government said in a statement on Sunday.

It went on to say that as Haftar failed to make progress on the ground; he resorted to seek support from "foreign air forces to strike civilians and the unarmed in the city".

It called for "revealing the fact of the aircraft that support Haftar in his aggression on Tripoli".

Anadolu Agency could not receive an immediate comment from the UN or Haftar forces on the GNA's statement.

Libya has remained beset by turmoil since long-serving leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a bloody NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

Since then, the oil-rich country has seen the emergence of two rival seats of power: one in eastern Libya, to which Haftar is affiliated, and another in Tripoli, which enjoys UN recognition.

Nearly 39,000 displaced as Libyan crisis worsens: UN

            By Umar Farooq </p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) – The UN is “gravely concerned” about reports of indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas of Tripoli, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said Friday at a news briefing.</p>  <p>Nearly 39,000 people have been displaced since fighting broke out in Libya’s capital, Dujarric said, citing data from the UN Migration Agency, and the humanitarian crisis there is worsening.</p>  <p>He stressed the need for “immediate and unconditional access for humanitarian partners” to enter the conflict areas in order to distribute aid to civilians caught in the crossfire.</p>  <p>“The United Nations reminds the parties of the need to protect civilians,” he added. </p>  <p>In early April, Khalifa Haftar, commander of forces loyal to Libya’s eastern government, launched a campaign to capture Tripoli, where the rival UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) is headquartered.</p>  <p>Intermittent fighting near Tripoli has left scores of people dead.</p>  <p>The UN has expressed concern that the conflict will create another migration crisis.</p>  <p>Dujarric said UN humanitarian partners have evacuated 655 people from the Qasr bin Ghashir detention center, located on the outskirts of Tripoli.</p>  <p>While noting that the verification of civilian casualties is ongoing, he said more than 3,000 refugees and migrants remain trapped in seven detention facilities around the capital. </p>  <p>Libya has remained beset by turmoil since long-serving leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a bloody NATO-backed uprising in 2011.</p>  <p>Since then, the country has seen the emergence of two rival seats of power: one in eastern Libya, to which Haftar is affiliated, and another in Tripoli, which enjoys UN recognition.

Govt. forces cause civilian deaths in Afghanistan: UN

By Shadi Khan Saif

KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – The UN mission in Afghanistan on Wednesday expressed concerns over rising civilian casualties caused by pro-government forces during the first quarter of 2019.

Some 608 civilian casualties (305 deaths and 303 injured) were caused by pro-government forces, surpassing for the first time those caused by the Taliban and other militants.

The UN report documented 1,773 civilian casualties this year, compared to 2,305 from last year.

The overall reduction was driven by a decrease in civilian casualties by suicide improvised explosive device (IED) attacks, the report says.

The mission noted that the harsh winter during the first three months of the year could have contributed to this trend.

The single-most factor causing casualties this year was air- and land-based search operations.

Afghanistan has been rocked by conflict for the last 17 years when U.S. troops entered the South Asian nation to fight the Taliban.

Egyptian summit calls for end to violence in Libya

            By Hamdi Yildiz</p>  <p>  <p>CAIRO (AA) – A summit held in Egypt’s capital Tuesday to discuss the political and security situation in Libya called on the warring parties to reach a truce and launch negotiations.</p>  <p>  <p>In the summit’s closing declaration, Libya's UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and forces led by commander Khalifa Haftar were urged to stop fighting.</p>  <p>  <p>The declaration stressed that the chaos created by armed militias had to be ended and only the country’s armed forces and regular police force should possess weapons.</p>  <p>  <p>Notably, it said the crisis in Libya has affected African countries the most and they wanted a political solution.</p>  <p>  <p>The summit was attended by high-level representatives from Egypt, Rwanda, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo.</p>  <p>  <p>Libya has remained beset by turmoil since long-serving leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a bloody NATO-backed uprising in 2011.</p>  <p>  <p>Since then, the country has seen the emergence of two rival seats of power: one in eastern Libya, to which Haftar is affiliated, and another in Tripoli, which enjoys UN recognition. </p>  <p>*Writing by Ali Murat Alhas

Libya’s Tripoli-based government seeks Algerian support

            By Abdel Razek Abdallah, Hamdi Yıldız <br>

ALGIERS (AA) – A senior official of Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) has called on Algeria to support it against renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.

“We expect Algeria to demonstrate a strong presence for the resolution of the Libyan crisis,” Ahmed Maiteeq, vice president of the GNA's Presidential Council, told Algerian state-run television after a meeting Thursday with Algeria’s interim president Abdelkader Bensalah in the capital, Algiers.

"We know that Algeria takes the side of the people of Libya and supports the Libyan people's demands for the establishment of a civil state, a new constitution and holding democratic elections," Maiteeq said.

Referring to the long border and important historical relations between the two countries, Maiteeq added that “the security of Algeria is the security Libya”.

Following two weeks of intermittent fighting near Tripoli that has left scores dead, forces loyal to Haftar, who is affiliated with a rival government based in eastern Libya, have so far failed to capture the capital.

Libya has remained beset by turmoil since long-serving leader Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed in a bloody NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

Since then, the country has seen the emergence of two rival seats of power: one in eastern Libya, to which Haftar is affiliated, and another in Tripoli, which enjoys UN recognition.

*Writing by Zehra Nur Duz