This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Central African Republic: Said trial opens at International Criminal Court
The trial of a paramilitary commander who is accused of carrying out or ordering crimes against humanity and war crimes, in the Central African Republic, began on Monday in The Hague.
Mahamat Said Abdel Kani – a top-ranking leader of the Séléka militia – pleaded not guilty to all charges, which relate to atrocities carried out in 2013, in the Central African Republic capital, Bangui.
Before the crimes were committed, from late 2012 to early 2013, Séléka militia advanced towards the capital, attacking police stations, occupying military bases, capturing towns and regional capitals, and targeting suspected supporters of President François Bozizé.
They seized Bangui in March 2013 and with forces numbering up to 20,000, looted homes while searching for sympathisers of Mr. Bozizé and shot those fleeing in the back or killed others in their homes.
Mr. Kani’s charge sheet includes imprisonment, torture, persecution, enforced disappearance and other inhumane acts, committed in Bangui between approximately April and November 2013.
He “oversaw the day-to-day operations” of an infamous detention centre, according to the Court and was “operations commander” at another, where he “kept a list of persons to be arrested”.
South Sudan violence proliferating, warn independent rights experts
To South Sudan, where deeply disturbing violence is escalating “all over” the country, top independent human rights experts have warned.
Women and girls continue to be gang-raped and survivors have been described as “zombies, physically and emotionally dead”, according to the UN Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.
In an alert, Commission chairperson, Yasmin Sooka, said that it was critical for the international community to monitor the country’s peace agreement, along with other reforms – including of the armed forces and the constitution.
Transitional justice bodies are also urgently needed, as per an agreement made four years ago by the country’s Government, the Commission noted.
“Without these steps, we are likely to see millions more South Sudanese displaced or crossing borders, creating havoc for neighbouring countries and aid agencies,” Ms. Sooka said.
The independent rights panel – which was established by the Human Rights Council in 2016 – said that “women raped by armed forces while collecting firewood are threatened with death if they report it”.
Often, the police are too ill-equipped to do their job and “they cannot arrest a soldier who is better armed and protected” the Commission said in a recent statement.
Torture ‘systematically practised’ in Venezuela; sanctioned at highest level
Torture is “systematically practised” in Venezuela and it is sanctioned at the “highest level” to suppress opposition voices, the Human Rights Council has heard.
In a new report, head of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela (FFMV), stated that two State intelligence agencies were responsible for crimes against humanity.
In addition to torture, the agencies – one military and one civilian intelligence service – carried out sexual and gender-based violence, arbitrary detentions and short-term enforced disappearances, the rights report continued.
The highest-ranking officers of each agency “report directly to the country’s highest-level political authorities”, the Human Rights Council heard, while the report also noted that most victims were officers and former officers of the armed forces and their associates.
“Human rights violations by both agencies continue to this day,” according to the report, which maintained that the agencies are part of a system “designed and deployed …to repress” opponents.
Daniel Johnson, UN News.