News in Brief – Geneva

South Sudan refugee numbers hit 1.5 million

More than 1.5 million people have now fled conflict in South Sudan, making it Africa's largest refugee crisis.

The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR raised the alarm in Geneva on Friday, saying that the scale of the situation in South Sudan is now only surpassed by Syria and Afghanistan.

Violence which erupted in December 2013 has also displaced an additional 2.1 million people inside the country.

The situation worsened in July last year when a peace deal broke down between government and opposition forces.

William Spindler is a spokesperson for UNHCR:

"Recent new arrivals report suffering inside South Sudan with intense fighting, kidnappings, rape, fears of armed groups and threats to life, as well as acute food shortage.Those fleeing South Sudan are being hosted by the poorest communities in the neighbouring countries, under immense pressure with scarce resources."

UNHCR has appealed to all parties in the conflict for an urgent, peaceful end to the crisis.

Without it, it's feared that thousands of people will continue to stream into South Sudan's neighbours: Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic.

Stay of execution for young offender welcomed by UN

Iran's stay of execution for a juvenile offender as well as the commutation of death sentences of six others has been welcomed by the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR).

The decision comes in the wake of recent appeals by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, and other UN human rights experts.

Concerns remain regarding another juvenile, Hamid Ahmadi, who was 17 years when he received the death penalty for the fatal stabbing in 2008 of a young man during a fight.

Here's Rupert Colville, the OHCHR Spokesperson.

"We renew our call on Iran to hold the application of the death penalty to people who committed crimes when they were children. The High Commissioner will be contacting the Iranian authorities regarding the case of Mr Ahmadi who reportedly remains in solitary confinement. We also once again urge Iran to immediately institute a moratorium on the death penalty amid serious concerns about the high number of executions since the beginning of the year."

According to the experts, the court relied on confessions allegedly obtained under torture while Mr Ahmadi was at a police station.

He was denied access to a lawyer and his family which is in violation of international guarantees of fair trial and due process.

However, Mr Ahmadi's execution, originally scheduled for Saturday 11 February, has been delayed for 10 days.

Source: United Nations Radio


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