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Ethiopia expels ‘meddling’ UN staff as famine deepens in Tigray without aid | Global development

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The Ethiopian government has told seven senior UN officials to leave the country, accusing them of “meddling in internal affairs”.

A statement from the foreign ministry said the officials – who include staff from the UN humanitarian agency, the UN human rights office and the children’s agency, Unicef – must leave Ethiopia within 72 hours.

The UN secretary-general, António Guterres, said he was shocked by the news, adding: “In Ethiopia, the UN is delivering lifesaving aid – including food, medicine, water and sanitation supplies – to people in desperate need. I have full confidence in the UN staff who are in Ethiopia doing this work.”

The news followed warnings from UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths this week that Ethiopia’s de facto blockade of aid has imposed famine on hundreds of thousands of people in the country’s northern Tigray region, which has been racked by conflict for nearly a year.

He told Reuters there was an escalating crisis inside the region of 6 million people, with children dying of hunger and medicine stocks running out. Child malnutrition is at its highest rate since the Somalia famine of 2010-12, which killed up to 260,000 people.

Martin Griffiths at UN conference
Martin Griffiths, the UN humanitarian chief, warned that Somalia was experiencing the world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade. Photograph: Martial Trezzini/EPA

There has been increasing international criticism of Ethiopia’s handling of aid, with the US government threatening sanctions on the fighting parties.

Ethiopia’s government has stopped food, medicine and fuel deliveries entering Tigray for nearly three months, in a bid to block support for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which has been fighting its troops since the federal army launched a bloody offensive last November. Thousands of people have died in the conflict.

With swarms of desert locusts ravaging crops in Ethiopia, and potentially poor harvests on the way, problems are mounting on what is already the world’s worst hunger crisis in a decade, warned Griffiths.

According to UN humanitarian services, 5.2 million people need help in Ethiopia’s northern regions of Tigray, Amhara and Afar. Aid delivery including fuel into Tigray remains challenging.

The US strongly condemned the expulsion and called on the Ethiopian government to reverse the decision. Secretary of state Antony Blinken said in a statement that Ethiopia must now free the flow of aid to citizens, or face a wave of sanctions.

“The expulsion is counterproductive to international efforts to keep civilians safe, and deliver lifesaving humanitarian assistance to the millions in dire need,” Blinken said.

“We will not hesitate to use this authority or other tools to respond to those who obstruct humanitarian assistance to the people of Ethiopia.

“We call on the international community similarly to employ all appropriate tools to apply pressure on the government of Ethiopia and any other actors impeding humanitarian access.”

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Belgium might close schools and cultural activities

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Today, Friday, Belgian governments are meeting again in order to decide on new Covid measures in order to stop the spreading of the virus as numbers are spiking. This time the concertation committee is gathering on the request of the Flemish minister-president Jan Jambon who suggested to close down all indoor events, including all concerts and theatre productions. The closing of schools is also on the agenda.

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El Salvador ‘responsible for death of woman jailed after miscarriage’ | Global development

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The Inter-American court of human rights has ruled that El Salvador was responsible for the death of Manuela, a woman who was jailed in 2008 for killing her baby when she suffered a miscarriage.

The court has ordered the Central American country to reform its draconian policies on reproductive health.

The decision on Tuesday marked the first time an international court has ruled on El Salvador’s extreme abortion laws and was celebrated by women’s rights activists, who believe it could open doors for change across the region.

Since 1998, abortion in El Salvador has been banned without exception, even in cases of rape and incest. Over the past two decades, more than 180 women have been jailed for murder for having an abortion after suffering obstetric emergencies, according to rights groups.

The case of Manuela v El Salvador was brought after the 33-year-old mother of two from the countryside died from cancer after receiving inadequate medical diagnosis and treatment, leaving her two children orphaned. She had been serving a 30-year prison sentence for aggravated homicide after a miscarriage.

When Manuela – whose full name has never been made public in El Salvador – went to the hospital after miscarrying, staff failed to provide her with timely treatment and instead subjected her to verbal abuse and accused her of having an abortion, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights. Manuela was handcuffed to her bed and denied access to a lawyer while police interrogated her.

“There is no doubt that Manuela suffered an obstetric emergency,” the landmark court ruling stated. “Such situations, as they are medical conditions, cannot lead to a criminal sanction.”

The court also ruled that the state must pay reparations to Manuela’s family, and should develop comprehensive sexual education policies and guarantee doctor-patient confidentiality.

“The Inter-American court has done justice by recognising Manuela was another victim of an unjust legal context that originates in the absolute prohibition of abortion,” said Morena Herrera, at the Feminist Collective for Local Development, one of the parties in the case supporting Manuela’s family.

“Manuela’s story is a sad one, but it represents a change and becomes a path of justice and hope for all women in Latin America and the Caribbean who are criminalised for obstetric events.”

Most countries in the region respect the Inter-American court’s jurisdiction, opening the door for sweeping change, activists said.

“This is a huge advance for reproductive rights, not only in El Salvador but across Latin America,” said Catalina Martínez Coral, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights, another party in the case. “This is a standard we can apply to the constitutions and states across the region.”

Martínez Coral added that while the ruling was to be celebrated, the issue of poverty affecting access to reproductive rights remained a challenge.

“There are over 180 cases of women in jail, or that have been jailed, over these issues,” said Martínez Coral, who also worked as a litigator on the case against the Salvadorean state.

“What that means is we’re dealing with a state that criminalises women and, above all, criminalises poor women in the most rural and impoverished areas,” she said.

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EU commission unveils proposal to digitalise justice systems

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The European Commission unveiled on Wednesday a proposal to digitalise EU cross-border justice systems, aiming at making them more accessible and effective. Under the new draft law, the EU executive wants to tackle inefficiencies affecting cross-border judicial cooperation and barriers to access to justice in cross-border cases. Shifting paper-based communications to electronic formats would save up to €25m per year across the EU in postage and paper costs.

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