News (handpicked)

Zimbabweans 'can't afford school'

The number of children going to school regularly in Zimbabwe has fallen dramatically from 90% to 20%, a senior UN relief official says. Catherine Bragg said many teachers were not being paid and could not afford to travel to work.

She warned Zimbabwe's humanitarian crisis would worsen. Meanwhile, it is reported that power-sharing talks have stalled because of insults traded between the opposition and mediator Thabo Mbeki. Representatives of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF had resumed talks in South Africa earlier in the week.

Cholera threat

At a news conference in New York, Ms Bragg called for "massive" international assistance for Zimbabwe. In addition to the cholera outbreak, which has killed more than 360 people since August, she said there has also been a breakdown in both the health and education sectors.

“For a country that used to have over 90% school attendance, now we're seeing less than 20%,” she said.

As well as teachers not being able to afford to work, students were required to make payments in kind, including food, which they did not have, she said.

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Zimbabwe: Humanitarian conditions worsen

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today voiced alarm at the deteriorating humanitarian conditions inside Zimbabwe, where an estimated 6 million people could soon require food aid, a deadly cholera outbreak is spreading and health-care, education and sanitation services are collapsing.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban described the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe as “now desperate” and said it is likely to only worsen in the coming months as the country’s political crisis continues.

“He is deeply concerned that nearly half of the total population of 12 million could require food assistance, and by reports that many households are now cutting back the number of meals eaten each day,” the statement said.

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Kidnapped in Kabul

Security in the Afghanistan capital is deteriorating as the Taliban grows in strength in the surrounding provinces. But alongside wartime bombings and targeted attacks, other violent crimes have also been on the increase. According to the Afghan Criminal Investigation Department, 170 kidnappings were recorded between April and October. Earlier this year Mohammed Sangar Ahmadzai, 20, was abducted for five days while his kidnappers negotiated a ransom fee from his father. He describes what happened

When I did well in school the government of Afghanistan gave me a scholarship to study in Delhi. When my dad found out that I wanted to go to India to study, he said: "No son, you can’t." So I stayed where I was and got a job at the Massoud Foundation, a non-profit organisation in Kabul.

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Asesinato ritual de una albina de seis años en Burundi

LALI CAMBRA - Ciudad del Cabo -

Una niña de seis años decapitada y desmembrada ante sus padres, en Burundi; dos madres atacadas con machetes porque se negaron a entregar a sus hijos, esta vez en Tanzania. Y también en este país, un detenido por intentar vender a su esposa a dos hombres de negocios congoleños por 2.000 euros. Todas las agresiones se han producido en una semana y todas por el mismo motivo: el comercio de albinos. Albinos eran Cizany, la niña de Burundi, los hijos de las mujeres atacadas y también la esposa en venta.

La creencia en el norte de Tanzania según la cual ingerir una pócima confeccionada con partes de cuerpos de albinos propicia encontrar oro o hacerse rico se extiende, ha cruzado a Burundi y se teme que llegue a otros países africanos. En lo que va de año, y pese al esfuerzo del Gobierno tanzano y de su presidente, Jakaya Kikwete, que inició una campaña de persecución de los brujos, más de 30 albinos, entre ellos un bebé de siete meses, han sido asesinados.

En Burundi, en la frontera con Tanzania, unos 50 han tenido que refugiarse en un centro provincial habilitado por las autoridades para ellos en octubre. Cizany, la última víctima, y sus padres se contaban entre ellos, pero el domingo decidieron regresar a casa. Acababan de llegar cuando hombres armados con fusiles entraron en el domicilio, ataron a los padres y mataron a la niña. Le cortaron la cabeza y las piernas, que se llevaron con ellos. Según dijo el presidente de la asociación de albinos de Burundi a la BBC, Kasim Kazungu, ataques similares no se habían registrado nunca hasta octubre, cuando llegaron noticias de lo lucrativo que es el comercio con miembros albinos en el país vecino.

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New glossary in Sierra Leone's major languages issued by UN-backed tribunal

 The top official of the United Nations-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL) has launched the first-ever glossary of national legal terminology in the West African nation's four major local languages.

 "When people are charged before a court, they have the right to hear the case against them in a language they understand," Herman von Hebel said at a ceremony yesterday presided over by the country's Acting Chief Justice, Umu Hawa Tejan-Jalloh. "This glossary will contribute significantly in making this possible."

 The "Integrated Glossary of Legal Terminology: Krio, Limba, Mende, Themne" was compiled by the Court's Language Unit and draws upon the experience of its interpreters.

Mr. von Hebel underscored that the new publication seeks to bolster Sierra Leone's judicial system and voiced hope that it will be part of the SCSL's legacy.

"We believe that the ability for a court to communicate legal terminology to those who come before it in terms they understand is crucial the accessibility of justice and the right to a fair trial."

The Court, established in January 2002 by an agreement between the Sierra Leonean Government and the UN, is mandated to try "those who bear greatest responsibility" for war crimes and crimes against community committed in the country after 30 November 1996.

The SCSL's trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone is currently under way in The Hague.

UN News Service


Universal Declaration of Human Rights flies into space

ESA PR 43-2008. “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a sprit of brotherhood”, states Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). 60 years after its adoption by the United Nations General Assembly at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris on 10 December 1948, the Declaration is ready to take a journey into space: destination the International Space Station, and more specifically, ESA’s Columbus laboratory.

On Friday 7 November at the Quai d’Orsay, the French Foreign Ministry, Ms Rama Yade, state secretary responsible for foreign affairs and human rights within the French government, will officially hand over a copy of the Declaration to ESA’s Director General, Jean-Jacques Dordain. 

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Human rights groups rap Lebanon over reports of torture in detention centers

BEIRUT: A coalition of human rights watchdogs has criticized Lebanon over claims of torture in the country's detention centers and has demanded that a report on the issue, due seven years ago, is completed and handed to the United Nations. Lebanon signed up to a UN convention against torture in 2000 but has failed to submit a report on what it is doing to combat the issue that was due a year later. Human Rights Watch says that "torture and ill treatment remain a serious problem in Lebanese detention facilities."

"It is not enough to sign conventions," the coalition of human rights groups said in a statement. "The government needs to comply with them."

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China's 'action plan' on human rights meets with skepticism

Beijing's announcement comes three months before a U.N. council is to review the status of human rights programs in the communist nation. Critics call it a public relations ploy. reporting from Beijing -- Facing international criticism over human rights abuses, China is preparing a national "action plan" on such issues as torture and freedom of speech, but critics Thursday were skeptical that the move would bring much change.

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