World News in Brief, Bangladesh democracy call, accountability for Israeli victims of sexual violence, plastic pollution in the Antarctic, powering Ukraine

High Commissioner Volker Türk voiced his concern that Sunday’s poll which saw Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina secure a fifth term in office, was “marred by violence and repression of opposition candidates and supporters”, according to a press release from rights office OHCHR.

“In the months leading up to the vote, thousands of opposition supporters have been detained arbitrarily or subjected to intimidation. Such tactics are not conducive to a truly genuine process,” said Mr. Türk.

He implored the Government “to take the necessary steps to ensure that the human rights of all Bangladeshis are fully taken into account, and to strengthen the underpinnings of a truly inclusive democracy in the country.”

Arrest, threats, disappearances

OHCHR said that according to reports, law enforcement officials used methods such as arrests, threats, enforced disappearances, blackmailing and surveillance as intimidation tactics ahead the ballot, which was boycotted by the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Acts of political violence, including arson attacks allegedly committed by opposition groups, have also been reported.

Around 25,000 opposition supporters have been arrested, including key party leaders, since 28 October, said OHCHR. At least 10 opposition supporters reportedly died – or were killed – in custody in the last two months, raising serious concerns about possible torture or harsh conditions of detention, the High Commissioner said.

Many human rights defenders have been forced to go into hiding, and some have fled the country, while dozens of suspected enforced disappearance cases have been reported, mostly in November.

‘Future of all Bangladeshis is at stake’

“These incidents must be independently investigated, and those responsible must be brought to justice in fair and transparent trials,” Mr. Türk said. “Violations and irregularities during the campaign and on election day itself should also be thoroughly and effectively investigated.”

Democracy was hard won in Bangladesh and must not become cosmetic,” said the High Commissioner. “Bangladesh has been a role model of development, and I fervently hope this will translate into the political and institutional spheres too. The future of all Bangladeshis is at stake.”

Rights experts demand accountability for sexual torture victims of Hamas

Top independent human rights experts on Monday demanded prompt investigations and accountability for victims of sexual torture in the 7 October Hamas-led attacks in southern Israel.

Some 1,200 Israeli and foreign nationals were killed in the surprise attacks across 22 villages and thousands more injured. An estimated 240 adults, children and infants were also taken hostage by militants from Hamas and other Palestinian extremist groups.

In a statement on Monday the rights experts known as Special Rapporteurs – who are not UN staff and who report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva – also called for justice relating to other grave crimes committed in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since the war in Gaza began – a likely reference to spiking violence in the West Bank including East Jerusalem that has left more than 300 Palestinians dead since 7 October.

Investigators must be given the necessary resources, support and access required” to explore all alleged crimes,” the experts said, as they called on Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the de facto authorities in Gaza to cooperate fully with any probes.

Plastic pollution: UN atomic agency embarks on Antarctic study

To the Antarctic now, where the UN atomic energy agency is using its nuclear knowhow to explore solutions to the global problem of plastic pollution.

In cooperation with Argentina, a small team from the International Atomic Energy Agency is deploying for one month to assess the impact of microplastics in the once pristine Antarctic environment.

The researchers’ plan is to investigate levels of microplastic in seawater, lakes, sediments, sand, discharge water and animals of the Antarctic ecosystem, near the Argentine Carlini scientific research station.

Plastic patrol

As part of the UN agency’s NUTEC initiative, 22 Antarctic sites will be monitored for microplastic pollution using radiation technology which has many uses including industrial recycling.

The process works by making use of gamma and electron beams to transform or recycle plastic waste into other products, such as construction materials.

According to the UN atomic energy agency, approximately 70 per cent of all plastics produced in the world are now waste material and only nine per cent of them have been recycled so far.

Power boost to stave off winter chill for 5.5 million Ukrainians: UNDP

With power generation capacity halved due to Russia’s invasion, the UN’s development agency (UNDP) and Japan have announced a shipment of new gas turbines to help beat the winter chill.

Aapproximately 93 per cent of Ukrainians faced disruptions in essential services like electricity, heating, and water supplies, said the UN Development Programme on Monday in a press release announcing the provision of the three cutting-edge gas turbines, provided by the Government of Japan.

Electricity autotransformers will fill gaps in Ukraine’s broken energy network.

© UNDP Ukraine/Ksenia Nevenchen

Electricity autotransformers will fill gaps in Ukraine’s broken energy network.

They will also assist in delivering to Ukraine seven autotransformers previously purchased by Ukrenergo, the national power company, with funds from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

The initiative implemented in coordination with Ukraine’s Ministry of Energy aims first and foremost at meeting the country’s immediate needs through the winter, it also supports long-term national goals.

Installing the new gas turbines and the autotransformers will help to avoid disruptions this winter, maintaining critical services for over 5.5 million Ukrainians in affected areas.

Countering energy threats

Speaking at the handover ceremony, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Ukraine, Christophoros Politis, said: “For the second consecutive year, in collaboration with our partners, we’ve been diligently working to assist Ukraine in preparing for potential energy threats, ensuring that everyone has light and warmth during the winter”.

Working with Japan, UNDP has supplied essential emergency equipment to communities across Ukraine, including 1,000 power banks and 1,200 generators. In October 2023, two high-power autotransformers were delivered to enhance the country’s power transmission capacity.

The challenge the country faces in the energy sector is immense. According to the UNDP in Ukraine report, Towards a Green Transition of the Energy Sector in Ukraine, generation capacity has been reduced to nearly 50 percent of its pre-2022 levels.

Since the invasion of February 2022, out of nearly 37 gigawatts of production capacity, over 19 gigawatts have been destroyed, damaged, or seized by Russian forces.

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