News in Brief 3 February 2016 (PM)

Tunisia’s efforts to fight terrorism should be grounded in human rights

Tunisia’s efforts to prevent violent extremism, although commendable, should be grounded in human rights, a UN expert said on Friday as he wrapped up a five-day visit to the country.

Ben Emmerson, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, travelled to Tunisia to assess its progress in fighting terrorism.

In recent years, the North African nation has suffered a string of tragic attacks carried out by Islamist militants because of its porous borders.

Mr Emmerson was “pleased” a national strategy to counter terrorism adopted last November and drafted with the help of the UN, was soon to be made public.

Despite the many positive developments, he shared some of his concerns and observations.

“I was informed that investigations and prosecutions are ongoing against more than 1,500 individuals accused of terrorist acts. Less than 10 per cent of those have been sentenced and the rest continue to be deprived of their liberty for prolonged periods of time without being found guilty of any offence.”

Mr Emmerson said he was particularly worried about the conditions he witnessed at Mornaguia Prison, which fell below international minimum standards.

He praised local authorities for their “transparency” and the “constructive way” in which they facilitated his visit.

Fighting between armed groups in CAR displaces 9,000

Fighting between two armed groups in the northern town of Bocaranga in the Central African Republic (CAR) has caused more than 9,000 to flee their homes to a nearby forest, according to the acting UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the country.

Michael Yao said that the rival militias also attacked compounds belonging to non-governmental organizations,or NGOs, including one that burnt to the ground.

Shops, a church and a market were “systematically pillaged,” he said.

CAR has suffered chronic instability for years due to an array of different armed groups, split often along sectarian lines, concentrated in the north and east of the country.

Prior to the latest conflict in Bocaranga, there were already 15,000 displaced locals sheltering in the town.

More details from Vladimir Monteiro, spokesperson for the UN Mission in CAR, MINUSCA, who says peacekeeping troops in Bocaranga were able to take effective action.

“The force intervened immediately. We were able to fire at both camps, as part of our mandate to protect civilians. We don’t know so far about the casualties. We condemn this situation and we warned these two movements, 3R and Anti-Balaka, that they will be held responsible for any attacks against humanitarian actors but also with respect to violations of human rights.”

Wheat production under threat from spreading “wheat rust” fungus

New strains of so-called “wheat rust” � a fungal disease which can totally destroy untreated wheat crops � have been identified by two new studies produced in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Scientists from Aarhus University in Denmark and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, said the new strains were making further advances into Europe, Africa and Asia.

At the same time, existing strains have spread to new countries, underlining the need for early detection and action to limit potentially major damage to wheat production, particularly in the Mediterranean, said FAO.

Wheat is a source of food and livelihoods for more than one billion people in developing countries.

Wheat rusts are spreading rapidly over long distances, born by wind, and can destroy crops completely within a matter of weeks.

Source: United Nations