World Solidarity with Cuba in UN after Scourge of Irma

Ambassadors and diplomats of five continents showed today here its solidarity with Cuba before the devastating step, the end of week, of Hurricane Irma.

By means of telephone calls and the social networks, the Cuban permanent mission before the United Nations has received in the last hours tens of samples of support and disposal to be helped in the middle of the human losses and the lazy ravages largely of its territory.

On Saturday, the chief of office of the Secretary-General of the UN, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, notified to Cuban permanent representative Anayansi Rodríguez the solidarity of the organization and its support in whatever it is necessary.

In this context, the executive director of the World Food Program, David Beasley, will visit countries of the Caribbean Sea affected by Irma, among them the island of Cuba.

Also from New York, where United Nations has its headquarters, messages of breath to Cuba and its people have been transferred.

On the eve, at the beginning of a concert of the Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez in the Central Park, the president of the New York City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, emphasized the support of the island to other Caribbean nations struck by the hurricane.

'Thank you Cuba, now we hope that the same support should be extended to you, after the suffering of these days,' affirmed the official.

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UN investigates reports of up to 80 civilians killed by airstrike in ISIS-held part of Mosul

The UN is investigating reports which say up to 80 civilians have been killed by an airstrike in a terrorist-held part of western Mosul. It also accused the jihadists of killing at least 231 residents attempting to flee the Iraqi city.

The airstrike happened in the Zanjilly neighborhood of the war-torn city on May 31, and is one of several reported incidents in which airstrikes caused civilian deaths in Mosul, the UN Human Rights Office said in a statement on Thursday.

The organization said its Iraqi office was seeking additional information on the incidents and called on the Iraqi Security Forces and the US-led coalition to take all measures to minimize civilian casualties in the ongoing conflict.

READ MORE: 100k children trapped in ISIS-held Mosul, some forced to fight for terrorists – UNICEF

Reuters cited a young man in Mosul, who said he was wounded in an airstrike which hit a group of between 200 and 250 civilians collecting water. The witness said the strike apparently targeted a fighter from the terrorist group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) who was hiding among them.

The UN also accused the jihadists of escalating the violence against the civilian population trying to flee the parts of Mosul remaining under IS control. It is estimated that since May 26, more than 231 civilians have been killed by IS fighters, with 204 reported deaths occurring over just three days last week.

WATCH MORE PHOTOS FROM MOSUL

The statement cited several instances of such mass killings by IS, which happened recently in the al-Shifa neighborhood, adding that an undetermined number of civilians have gone missing.

“Shooting children as they try to run to safety with their families – there are no words of condemnation strong enough for such despicable acts,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein was cited by the statement as saying.

 
© Ali Arkady/VII/Redux

“I call on the Iraqi authorities to ensure that those who are responsible for these horrors are held accountable and brought to justice in line with international human rights laws and standards. The victims of such terrible crimes must not be forgotten.”

The Iraqi forces announced a new push two weeks ago to capture several neighborhoods of western Mosul remaining under IS control, with an estimated 200,000 civilians trapped there. According to UNICEF, 100,000 children are living in harrowing conditions in western Mosul, and some of them have been used as soldiers by the jihadists.

The UN high commissioner also called on the Iraqi authorities to investigate any allegations of human rights violations committed by Iraqi Security Forces, without specifying any particular allegations.

It comes after freelance photographer and filmmaker Ali Arkady began to publish footage and images of the torture of prisoners, executions and other crimes allegedly committed by the Iraqi Emergency Response Division (ERD) in December 2016. Arkady said he was embedded with the unit at the time.

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100,000 people displaced by fighting in Raqqa, Syria, since April – UN

Some 100,000 people have been displaced due to heavy fighting near the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa, Syria, since April this year, a UN human rights chief says. Children are the worst hit, many subjected to torture, sexual violence and executions.

“We need to see a step-change in access to the increasingly dire situation in northeastern Syria…With some 100,000 people displaced due to fighting around Raqqa since April, access is needed now through every possible modality,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien said in a statement to the UN Security Council on Syria on Tuesday. 

According to O’Brien, the protection space is “shrinking, humanitarian conditions are worsening, and the level of despair is rising” across the entire country. In Idlib alone, there are over 900,000 displaced people, he said.

READ MORE: US begins arming Kurdish militia fighting ISIS near Raqqa

This is “not due to insecurity or poor infrastructure, but by increasingly strict limitations by local authorities, non-state-armed groups, as well as terrorist organizations, and the actions of some neighboring countries.”

The city of Raqqa, some 40km from Tabqa Dam, Syria’s largest reservoir, was captured by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) back in 2013. Since then the city has been a scene of heavy battles and numerous offensives.

Clashes and airstrikes have recently intensified near the city as US-backed Syrian rebels reached the northern entrance of Raqqa, AP reported on Tuesday, citing activists.

Airstrikes in mid-May killed nearly two dozen farmworkers in a village in eastern Raqqa, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said earlier in May.

Hussein called on all forces operating in Syria to be more careful to correctly distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilians.

READ MORE: Safe zones in Syria come into force: Here’s what we know about

In the meantime, O’Brien praised efforts of Iran, Russia and Turkey which established a memorandum on the creation of four de-escalation zones which came into force earlier in May.

This “memorandum that stipulates, in no uncertain terms, that fighting must significantly decrease and unhindered humanitarian access be enabled to these four areas,” he said.

‘Children tortured, subjected to sexual violence & executed’

Children remain the worst-affected group of population amid Syrian crisis, O’Brien said, adding that some 7 million children are now living in poverty in the war-torn country.

“Tens of thousands of children have been killed, and for those who have survived till today, the outlook remains bleak,” he said.

According to O’Brien, Syrian children “have been forcibly detained, they have been tortured, subjected to sexual violence, forcibly recruited and in some cases executed.”

READ MORE: Dozens of civilians, incl women & children, killed in US airstrikes in Syria – state media

He reminded that outside the country, Syrian children are “left to face an uncertain and traumatic future on their own”.

“They have become stateless, abandoned by the world,” he said.

“How are these children meant to function as adults? What future do these children have – illiterate, orphaned, starved, traumatized and maimed?” O’Brien said in an emotional plea to the UNSC.

“What future does a country have when its next generation is a lost generation? For these suffering children, what’s at stake isn’t politics. It’s their lives and their futures. It is their innocent voices, their suffering that need advocating,” he added.

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UN’s North Korea sanctions experts targeted by ‘sustained’ hack attack – report

A UN panel of experts investigating possible violations of North Korean sanctions have fallen victim to a “sustained” hack attack launched by unknown perpetrators who were perfectly aware of what the experts were looking for.

In a warning email sent to UN officials and the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee – also known as the 1718 committee – the panel chair described the hack attack as part of a “sustained cyber campaign,” according to Reuters, which has seen the document.

 
© David McNew

The chair of the expert panel said a zip file containing a “highly personalized message” had been sent to one of the investigators, “which shows the hackers have a very detailed insight into the panel’s current investigations structure and working methods.”

“As a number of 1718 committee members were targeted in a similar fashion in 2016, I am writing to you all to alert you to this heightened risk,” the panel chair wrote in an email sent out on May 8.

The UN sanctions committee secretary sent another email to fifteen Security Council members on May 10 to report that the United Nation’s Office of Information and Communications Technology was “conducting an analysis of the affected hard drive.”

“Increased vigilance relating to 1718 Committee-related correspondence is therefore advised until data analysis and related investigations are completed,” the second warning read.

One of the panel members was hacked, according to a spokesman for the Italian Mission to the UN, which currently chairs the 1718 committee.

Details regarding the extent of the breach or who might have been behind the cyberattack are not immediately clear, but suspicion is likely to fall on North Korea.

Earlier this week, cybersecurity experts said that the WannaCry ransomware, which has hit computer networks in 150 countries around the globe, may have been launched by Pyongyang or people trying to frame North Korea. The speculation arose when it was revealed that the virus contains code similar to that in malware attributed to alleged North Korean hackers.

 
© Silas Stein / DPA / Global Look Press

Neel Mehta, a renowned Google security researcher, revealed the resemblance between the code used in what is said to be an early version of WannaCry and that in a hacker tool attributed to the notorious Lazarus Group.

There are widespread rumors suggesting that North Korea maintains a unit of highly trained hackers capable of launching sophisticated attacks on Pyongyang’s adversaries. Citing unverifiable sources among North Korean defectors, Reuters reported that North Korea’s main intelligence agency has a special cyber cell called Unit 180. The secretive detachment is allegedly involved in launching high-profile cyberattacks on financial institutions in order to steal money and other assets.

Pyongyang has never acknowledged conducting such operations, however. On Friday, North Korea’s deputy UN envoy said it was nonsense to link Pyongyang with the WannaCry ransomware attack. “Relating to the cyberattack, linking to the DPRK, it is ridiculous,” Kim In Ryong, the deputy envoy, told a news conference, as cited by Reuters.

“Whenever something strange happens, it is the stereotype way of the United States and the hostile forces that kick off noisy anti-DPRK campaign deliberately linking with DPRK,” Kim said.

In April, Russia’s KasperskyLab said it had traced some of the IPs used by the Lazarus Group, which is believed to be behind numerous hacking attacks on banks’ SWIFT servers, back to North Korea, thus establishing “a direct link” between the suspected perpetrators and the reclusive state for the first time.

However, KasperskyLab experts fell short of naming North Korea an actual perpetrator, citing lack of evidence.

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UN: At Least 3,900 Children Killed by Boko Haram in Three Years

The latest report showed how Boko Haram committed “grave violations” against children under the conflict in Nigeria.

Children in Northeast Nigeria are under continuous brutalization as Boko Haram's insurgency contiues to terrify the region, a U.N. report concluded.

RELATED: Beset by Economic, Political Woes, Nigerians Protest for Change

The “Report of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Nigeria” documented the impact of armed conflict on children from January 2013 to December 2016.

It found that at least 3,900 children were killed and 7,300 more maimed due to Boko Haram’s attacks on communities and confrontations with security forces during that period. Suicide attacks became the second leading cause of casualties, which account for over one thousand of child deaths and 2,100 injuries. 

Boko Haram, the Islamist group, had waged a campaign of violence and terror across parts of west and central Africa. It has killed more than 20,000 people and displaced 2.3 million others since then. 

"With tactics including widespread recruitment and use, abductions, sexual violence, attacks on schools and the increasing use of children in so-called 'suicide' attacks, Boko Haram has inflicted unspeakable horror upon the children of Nigeria's northeast and neighboring countries," Virginia Gamba, the special representative of the secretary-general for children and armed conflict, said in a press release. 

The U.N. verified the recruitment and use of 1,650 children by the group, including the use of 90 children for suicide bombings in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger. Many of those children were abducted.

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In April 2014, Boko Haram militants abducted 276 schoolgirls from the small Nigerian town of Chibok. The majority of those girls are still missing, despite a high-profile international campaign of “#BringBackOurGirls” on social media.

Testimonies from children separated from Boko Haram indicated that other children joined the group due to financial incentives, peer pressure, familial ties and for ideological reasons. Some parents also gave up their children to the group in exchange for security guarantees or economic gain. 

Boko Haram fighters then employ the children in "direct hostilities," including for planting improvised explosive devices, to burn schools or houses and in a variety of intelligence-related support roles, the report says.

Schools have been targets of choice for Boko Haram and the U.N. estimates that 1,500 were destroyed since 2014, with at least 1,280 casualties among teachers and students.

The report condemned those violations against children “in the strongest possible terms” and urged all parties to ensure the protection of civilians during armed conflict under international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law. 

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UN Dismayed by Toll of Terrorist Attack in Syria

UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura expressed dismay at the growing number of civilian casualties as a result of the terrorist attack on a refugee convoy in Syria on April 15.

According to the latest update, a truck-bomb left at least 130 dead, including 67 children, and 200 wounded, he told reporters in Geneva.

De Mistura said that the pain is greater when you see that the caravan of buses attacked on the outskirts of Aleppo was evacuating thousands of people that had been subjected to three years of siege in the towns of Kefraya and al-Fouaa.

When it seemed that they would come out of that situation, the tragedy occurs, he lamented.

According to the UN mediator at the Geneva peace talks, the horrific attack generated a moment of unity, as representatives of the Syrian government, the opposition and non-governmental organizations helped the wounded together.

Therefore, this attack somehow failed in its goal to divide, he asserted.

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Cuba Ratifies Zero Tolerance of Human Trafficking at UN

Cuba has maintained a zero tolerance policy for human trafficking, a crime that violates the human rights of the victims, the Havana embassy at the United Nations Office in Geneva stated today.

The diplomatic mission informed today the delivery of the National Action Plan for the Prevention and Fighting of Human Trafficking (2017-2020) to the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of the victims of that crime, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro. The UN representative will shortly travel to Cuba and 'the early delivery of the National Plan will facilitate the achievement of the objectives set forth with the visit,' the note said.

According to the text, this program confirms the commitment by the Cuban government to comply with the Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish human trafficking, especially women and children, complementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

'Aware that human trafficking violates the human rights of the victims, the Cuban government has maintained a zero tolerance policy for this crime,' the statement said.

The actions in this regard are based on three axes: prevention, fighting human trafficking and protecting the victims, it added.

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