Wednesday’s Daily Brief: migration tragedy in the Rio Grande, drugs report, Torture Victims Day

UNMISS/JC McIlwaine A United Nations Mine Action Service team team visits mine clearance site in Central Equatoria, South Sudan.

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


Top news, this Thursday are: the migration debate spurred by the tragic image of a drowned man and his daughter in the Rio Grande; the Khashoggi killing discussed at the Human Rights Council; key findings from the latest UN report on drugs; updates from South Sudan and Mali; International Day in Support of Victims of Torture; and an event on tolerance in at UN headquarters in New York.

Tragic image of drowned father and child in Rio Grande spurs migration debate

The drowning of a father and his toddler daughter in the Rio Grande is a heartbreaking and preventable tragedy that countries should do all in their power to prevent happening in the future, the head of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said on Wednesday.

Filippo Grandi’s comments about Oscar Ramirez and his 23-month-old daughter Valeria follow the publication of a photograph showing them lying face down in the shallows of the river that separates Mexico from the United States. They had come from El Salvador and according to reports, were carried away by strong currents in the fast-flowing river on Sunday.

In a statement, High Commissioner Grandi said that their deaths represented “a failure to address the violence and desperation” that pushes people to take dangerous journeys in search of a life of safety and dignity.

A lack of safe pathways for migrants forces them to risk their lives, he said, before adding that UNHCR has suggested ways that the United States can improve and strengthen processing of asylum-seekers, including conditions in detention.

UN should lead criminal investigation into Khashoggi killing, says rights investigator

All members of the global community – the United Nations included – should do more to protect human rights defenders and dissidents, Special Rapporteur Agnès Callamard said on Wednesday, as she repeated her call for an international probe into the murder of Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.

Presenting her report into the Saudi dissident’s killing last October in Istanbul, the UN-appointed independent rights expert told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that there was credible evidence supporting an additional investigation into the role of high officials in the kingdom, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“The evidence gathered by the inquiry suggests that the killing of Mr. Khashoggi constituted an extrajudicial execution, and enforced disappearance, and possibly an act of torture, for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible. There are numerous theories as to the circumstances of Mr. Khashoggi’s death, but none leads other than to the responsibility of the State.”

Highlighting that Mr. Khashoggi’s premeditated execution reflected an increasing global phenomenon, the Special Rapporteur insisted that if the international community ignored this fundamental rights abuse, it risked threatening all other human rights.

In response to her claims, Abdulaziz Alwasil, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said that she had not acted within the terms of her mandate, and neither had she carried out her work professionally.

Two-thirds of global drug deaths now from opioids: UN drugs report

Opioids, which include both heroin and legal pain relievers, were responsible for around two-thirds of drug-related deaths in 2017, a new UN report revealed on Wednesday. The number for global opioid users contained within the World Drug Report, some 585,000 people, is more than double the previous estimate.

The study from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), also shows that the negative health consequences associated with drugs are more severe and widespread than previously thought, with around 35 million people suffering from drug use disorders and requiring treatment services.

Read our full coverage here.

South Sudan peace ‘hangs in the balance’

Peace between government and opposition forces in South Sudan “hangs in the balance,” but there is an overwhelming desire from people in the eastern African country for an end to the five-year long conflict there; that’s according to David Shearer, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan.

Speaking to UN News in New York, Mr. Shearer said that it was up to the country’s leaders to ensure the people’s desire for peace is fulfilled. Daniel Dickinson spoke to Mr. Shearer and began by asking him for the latest on the revitalized peace deal which was agreed late last year. Listen here:

Humanitarian situation deteriorates in Central Mali

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported on Wednesday that intercommunal violence and floods in the Mopti region, in central Mali, are aggravating an already precarious humanitarian situation for over 50,000 internally displaced people.

There are also concerns that the increasing number of displaced people in Mopti may overwhelm existing response resources, as over 210,000 people are facing food insecurity and only 2 per cent of people have access to safe drinking water.

The UN, along with its humanitarian partners and the Government, are working to address the most urgent needs of the more than 120,000 displaced people currently registered in the country.Meanwhile, the UN peacekeeping mission in-country, MINUSMA, has enhanced its presence in the Mopti region to better protect civilians from attacks.

Vile act of torture prohibited ‘under all circumstances’, UN chief affirms on International Day to support victims

While the prohibition of torture is “absolute, under all circumstances”, UN Secretary-General António Guterres bemoaned the fact that “this core principle is undermined every day” – in detention centres, prisons, police stations, psychiatric institutions and other places where captor can prey on captive.

This was part of his message for the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, on Wednesday, describing the despicable act, as a vicious attempt to break a person’s will.

Find our full story here.

Tackle ‘tsunami of hatred’ across the world urges Guterres, to counter anti-Semitism, racism and intolerance

The “multi-headed monster” of intolerance, has created a visible and violent “tsunami of hatred” that is gathering speed across the world, said Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday. The UN chief was speaking at an event organized by the President of the General Assembly in New York on the Challenges of Teaching Tolerance and Respect in the Digital Age.

He told those gathered he had recently viewed an exhibition at the Museum of Jewish Heritage called “Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away”.

Read our full coverage of the event here.

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