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Geneva Conventions: UN seeks tougher action against violators

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Members of the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday called for decisive action against violators of international humanitarian law in armed conflicts.

The call came at a special session of the council to mark the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions agreed by the 196 member states of the UN on Aug. 12, 1949.

Established in the aftermath of the Second World War, the treaty comprised four Conventions and three Additional Protocols, establishing the modern, international legal standards for humanitarian treatment during times of war.

It governs how civilians, prisoners of war, victims of shipwrecks, the sick and wounded are treated by both state and non-state actors in combat.

At Tuesday’s session, various speakers took turns to hail the “significant body of law”, which they said was playing “a vital role in limiting brutality of armed conflicts”.

However, they identified the challenges in implementing the conventions and called for action to ensure compliance.

They noted that international humanitarian law was not sufficiently observed by parties to armed conflicts, particularly in places like Syria, Libya, South Sudan and Ukraine.

In his statement, the President of the Council and Foreign Minister of Poland, Mr Jacek Czaputowicz, said civilians and vulnerable persons, especially women and children, were mostly affected.

Czaputowicz stated that the greatest challenge to protecting human lives in modern conflicts was violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) by armed forces and non-state armed groups.

“If existing rules were followed much of the suffering in contemporary conflicts would not occur.

“Poland takes the view that international humanitarian law needs to be protected by way of its implementations,” he said.

He noted that insufficient or even lack of accountability for violations of international humanitarian law “was a systemic weakness that is not new”.

Czaputowicz said it was the role of the international community to ensure that impunity is removed and remedies for victims of violations provided.

The German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Heiko Maas, said the Geneva Conventions remained “one of humanity’s proudest achievements”.

Maas, however, noted that respect for humanitarian law was declining with civilians, humanitarian workers, medical personnel, hospitals and schools coming under attacks.

This, he said, underscored the fact that “we are failing the most vulnerable, and not living up to our legal and ethical obligations”.

“So, let us live up to the principles we all agreed 79 years ago. Let us bring those who attack humanitarian workers and violate the Geneva conventions to justice.

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Rwanda’s trade deficit up 27.7% in Q1

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Rwanda’s trade deficit up 27.7% in Q1

Trade

Kigali, Aug. 22, 2019 (Xinhua/NAN) Rwanda’s trade deficit on Thursday increased by 27.7 per cent in the first half of 2019, compared to the same period of 2018, the central bank said.

The central bank governor, John Rwangombwa, disclosed this while presenting the bank’s second Monetary Policy and Financial Stability Statement of 2019 in the capital city of Kigali.

Rwangombwa said the trade deficit settled at 767.92 million U.S. dollars in the first half of 2019, compared to 601.4 million U.S. dollars in the same period in 2018.

According to him, increased imports bill is attributed to domestic demand for intermediate and capital goods due to ongoing investments. In the first half of 2019, imports bill rose by 18.2 per cent to 1,338.7 million U.S. dollars.

He added that due to the relatively high import bill, relative to December 2018, the Rwandan franc depreciated by 2.2 per cent against the Dollar by the end of June.

This, he said, was higher than the depreciation of 1.7 per cent registered in the same period of 2018.

Rwangombwa also said Rwanda’s total exports receipts increased by 7.5 per cent to 577.8 million U.S. dollars in the first half of 2019 compared to 537.3 million dollars in the first half of 2018.

However, its volume had also increased by 58.1 per cent.

He said in line with the made-in-Rwanda programme, there was growing share of non-traditional exports mainly driven by increased domestic production of milling industry, flowers, other minerals, cement, textiles, as well as iron and steel.

Rwangombwa said Rwanda had been experiencing strong economic growth since the second half of 2017, with an average real GDP rate of 8.8 per cent, (Xinhua/NAN)

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Russia preparing for prisoner swap with Ukraine

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Prisoner

Maxim Odintsov and Alexander Baranov were Ukrainian servicemen, who switched sides when Russia annexed Ukraine’s southern Crimea region.

The third, Yevgeny Mefedov, was taken into custody amid pro-Russian rallying in the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa.

“The swap can be expected in the nearest future,’’ lawyer Valentin Rybin said in comments carried by Russian state news agency, TASS.

Relations between Russia and Ukraine have plummeted to an all-time low in recent years, since Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea in retaliation for Kiev ousting its pro-Russian president.

The countries are reportedly seeking to exchange a total of about 200 prisoners, including two dozen Ukrainian sailors captured by Russia during a naval incident, late last year off the Crimean coast. (dpa/NAN)

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Three South Koreans die in Hungary rail crossing crash

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Three South Koreans die in Hungary rail crossing crash

Crash

Budapest, Aug. 22, 2019 Three South Korean citizens died in Hungary in an accident late on Wednesday, when the car, in which they were traveling, was hit by a train, local police said on Thursday.

The crash happened at a rail crossing at the Danube Bend, a tourist spot about 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of the Hungarian capital Budapest, when the car ignored a red light and drove onto the tracks.

The accident comes less than three months after 26 South Korean tourists died in a boat crash on the Danube in Budapest, in the worst disaster on the river in more than half a century.

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Edited by Abdulfatah Babatunde

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WHO calls for more research into impact of microplastics on human health

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Research

This followed the release of an analysis of current research related to microplastics in drinking-water.

The WHO released its latest and the first report, Microplastics in Drinking-Water, on Thursday to examine the potential human health risks associated with exposure to tiny, often microscopic pieces of plastic known as “micro-plastics” in the environment.

Microplastics are ubiquitous in the environment and have been detected in a broad range of concentrations in marine water, wastewater, fresh water, food, air and drinking-water, both bottled and tap water, the WHO said.

WHO added that potential hazards associated with microplastics come in three forms: physical particles, chemicals and microbial pathogens as part of biofilms.

Based on limited evidence available, chemicals and biofilms associated with microplastics in drinking-water pose a low concern for human health, according to the report.

In spite of insufficient information to draw firm conclusions on the toxicity related to the physical hazard of plastic particles, particularly for the nano size particles, no reliable information suggests it is a concern.

However, the WHO cautioned that the data on the occurrence of microplastics in drinking-water were limited at present, with few fully reliable studies using different methods and tools to sample and analyse microplastic particles.

While calling for further research to obtain a more accurate assessment of exposure to microplastics and their potential impacts on human health, the WHO also gave a set of recommendation to deal with the microplastics.

It said that water suppliers and regulators should continue to prioritise removing microbial pathogens and chemicals from drinking-water that are known significant risks to human health.

This can be done by optimising water treatment processes for particle removal and microbial safety and routinely monitoring microplastics in drinking-water for the time being.

Meanwhile, researchers should undertake targeted, well-designed and quality-controlled investigative studies to better understand the occurrence of microplastics in the water cycle and in drinking-water.

This is carried out throughout the water supply chain, the sources of microplastic pollution and the uptake, fate and health effects of microplastics under relevant exposure scenarios.

It also called on policy makers to take measures and the public to better manage plastics and reduce the use of plastics where possible, so as to minimise plastics released into the environment. (Xinhua/NAN)

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Sudan calls for international support for implementation of its political agreement

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The Republic of Sudan on Thursday urged the international community to support the implementation of its historic final political agreement and constitutional document signed in Khartoum on Aug. 17.

Nigeria News Agency reports that the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Civilian Alliance Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change (FFC) signed the agreements, a move aimed at ensuring peace and economic stability in the country.

The call is contained in a statement issued in Abuja by Ghazafi Abdalla, the Charge D’ Affairs of the Sudanese embassy in Nigeria, .

Sudan said that the landmark agreements would last for three months and after which a general election would follow, adding that the agreements were aimed towards establishing structures, institutions and modalities for running an effective transitional programme.

“The hard-won deal was signed by the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the civilian alliance Forces of the Declaration of Freedom and Change (FFC) in response to the aspirations of the Sudanese People for freedom, Peace, Justice and Democracy,” it said.

The embassy noted that officials from Nigeria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs participated in the ceremony, which was also attended by a number of African Heads of States, mediators and high profile representatives from other friendly countries, stakeholders and international and regional organisations.

NAN recalls that Sudan was hit by protests in Dec. 2018, led by a coalition of civil society groups in the country against 30-year rule of Omar

Hassan Al-Bashir.

The protest arose following rising food prices and scarcity of basic items such as bread and fuel, and living standard.

The embassy, however, commended the show of commitment demonstrated by all the parties involved to immediately embark on swift actions for implementation of the terms of the agreements.

“Hence, on Aug. 20, the TMC formed the new 11 member-Sovereign Council, headed by Lt. Gen Abdul-Fattah AbdualRahman Al-Burhan, approval of the appointment of FCC nominees for key positions including the post of Prime Minister, which was filled by Dr Abdulla Hamdouk, the former Acting Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

“He is expected to form his cabinet within seven days,” it said.

It expressed the embassy’s sincere appreciation and gratitude of the Sudanese people to the African Union, the Member States of the African Union and the sisterly Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, and their envoys; Prof. Mohamed Lebatt and Ambassador Mahmoud Dirir.

It said “Their dedication, patience and rich diplomatic experience have had an effective impact on the success of negotiations.

“Sudan looks forward to resuming its natural role in the African Union, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, The Arab League, Group of Non-Aligned States, the United Nations and the rest of regional and international organisations, and to strengthen its cooperation relations with all sisterly and friendly countries.”

(Edited by Emmanuel Yashim)

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