Tuesday’s Daily Brief: hate speech, dementia, Libya and Yemen, human rights in Brazil and Lebanon

Photo courtesy of ‘Come On, Let’s Bike’ Bike ride in Damascus, Syria (2015).

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


This Tuesday, we cover: the UN chief in New Zealand’s Christchurch calls for end to hate speech; how a healthy lifestyle can prevent dementia; updates on fighting in Libya and Yemen; the human rights of detainees in Lebanon and people affected by leprosy in Brazil.

In Christchurch, UN chief calls for tolerance, solidarity to extinguish ‘wildfire’ of hate speech

On a three-day visit to New Zealand, UN Secretary-General António Guterres paid his respects to the victims of the horrific mosque attacks in Christchurch, where dozens of Muslims were gunned down in two separate incidents during Friday prayers on 15 March.

Calling for solidarity to  counter the recent upsurge in hate speech, the UN chief visited both Linwood Mosque, where he laid a wreath, and Al Noor mosque. On 15 March, a lone gunman killed 51 people at the two places of worship while livestreaming the attacks on social media.

Read our full coverage here.

UN health agency highlights lifestyle choices that can prevent onset of dementia, as millions more succumb each year

Key lifestyle choices such as getting regular exercise, not smoking or drinking too much, can reduce the risk of dementia and cognitive decline, the UN health agency said on Tuesday.

In recommendations to counter an expected tripling in the number of people with the degenerative condition in the next 30 years, the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines are designed to help medical professionals and governments to develop national policies.

Read our full story here.

Tripoli clashes intensifying, warns UN migration agency, amid rising safety fears

The “dramatically deteriorating humanitarian situation” in Tripoli has highlighted that much more needs to be done to protect all non-combatants caught up in the battle for the Libyan capital, as the number of victims rises, and thousands flee their homes, the UN said on Tuesday.

In an update to journalists in Geneva, the UN migration agency, IOMreported that 66,000 people have now fled Tripoli to cities along the coast and towards the Nafusa Mountains since clashes erupted between the internationally recognized Government and eastern forces loyal to commander Khalifa Haftar last month.

Safa Msehli, spokesperson for IOM Libya said: “As it stands, the clashes are definitely intensifying and we have not noticed a lot of differences since the beginning of armed conflict on 4 April.”

Ms. Msehli also expressed concern for more than 3,000 migrants still being held in 11 official detention centres in and around the capital. They include children and pregnant women, according to UN refugee agency UNHCR, which urged the international community to come forward with “offers of evacuation, humanitarian corridors, whatever it takes to get people out of harm’s way”.

According to latest UN figures from 5 April until 9 May, the fighting has claimed 454 lives and wounded more than 2,150.

UN human rights office calls for transparent probe into death of detainee in Lebanon

The death of a detainee who was allegedly tortured while he was being held by Lebanese authorities should be investigated thoroughly and independently, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said on Tuesday.

Michelle Bachelet’s appeal concerns 44-year-old Hassan Toufic Dika from Lebanon, who died last weekend, after being originally arrested in November 2018. In a statement, she said that legal procedures appear to have been flouted from the time of Mr. Dika’s arrest by Lebanese security officers, until his death on Saturday. His case highlighted “a number of very serious failings in Lebanon’s legal and prison systems”, the High Commissioner said.

“The country appears to be trying to deal with the issue of torture,” UN human rights spokesperson, Rupert Colville, said, adding that “we don’t believe it’s widespread, but everything that you can think of that could have gone wrong seems to have gone wrong in this case.”

“We really want Lebanese authorities to step up and make sure their laws and systems start to function in the way they themselves appear to want them to function in terms of what they’ve set up, but clearly something is not filtering down to the operatives dealing with cases such as this,” he explained.

Brazil: UN rights expert call for more efforts to end discrimination against people affected by leprosy

A UN human rights expert, Alice Cruz, has expressed serious concerns about the number of children affected by leprosy in Brazil, many of whom are denied access to schooling. She urged the Government to take urgent steps to ensure the rights of those affected with the disease are protected.

Brazil has the second highest rate of new leprosy cases worldwide, with 26,875 leprosy cases in 2017, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

“I acknowledge the efforts of the Brazilian Government to fight discrimination against this vulnerable group, but I still find significant gaps that need to be addressed. Persons affected by leprosy continue to experience prejudice, structural and interpersonal discrimination and have limited access to fundamental rights and substantive equality,” Ms. Cruz said in a statement following an eight-day visit inside the country.

Expressing serious concerns about the prevailing stigma associated with the disease, and the lack of understanding about transmission and treatment, she explained that “contrary to popular conception, leprosy is a curable disease, it is difficult to transmit and after the first doses of treatment there is no risk of transmission.”

She deplored that people affected by leprosy “still struggle to receive appropriate and comprehensive health care, obtain education and employment, and some are still searching for their children who were forcibly taken in the past.”

“More must be done to ensure early detection, prompt treatment, rehabilitation and reconstructive surgery,” the UN expert said.

Her final report, including findings and key recommendations, will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2020.

UN monitoring team in Yemen verifies pullout of armed forces from crucial port zones

The UN team set up to monitor the ceasefire agreement between warring parties in Yemen has formally verified the pullout of armed Ansar Allah, or Houthi forces, from port zones in the country that are crucial to the flow of humanitarian aid, describing cooperation they have received so far as “very good.”

The Chair of the UN support mission (UNMHA), Lieutenant General Michael Lollesgaard, released a statement on Tuesday, confirming that the redeployment of forces from Hudaydah, Salif and Ras Issa ports, part of the deal struck between Houthi leaders and the Yemeni Government, went ahead as agreed, albeit with some exceptions: security of the ports was handed over to the coast guard, but, he said, “a lot of work needs to be done” to remove  military hardware.

Read our full coverage here.

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