U.N. rights chief presses on Sri Lankan government about missing civilians

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein asked Sri Lanka’s government on Tuesday to quickly locate thousands of civilians reported missing during the country’s civil war. The government has said most are probably dead. Many ethnic Tamil civilians have not been heard from since they were taken from their homes by police or military personnel or abducted by pro-government militias during the war, which ended in 2009. Tamil politicians handed over a list of more than 4,000 people reported missing to visiting al-Hussein, with the dates and locations they were last seen. (AP http://yhoo.it/1opdvd2)

Last patient�Sierra Leone’s last known Ebola patient has been released from hospital, medical officials said on Monday, allowing authorities to begin a six-week countdown before declaring the West African country free of the virus once more. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1Q5FmoA)

Stat of the day: More than one million Syrians are trapped in besieged areas, a new report says in a challenge to the United Nations, which estimates just half that amount and has been accused by some aid groups of underplaying a crisis. (AP http://yhoo.it/1O1FAfo)

Quote of the Day: “”My experience is that if you want to end wars, end them early.” – Deputy UN Secretary General Jan Eliasson speaking to the press about Syria at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

Africa

South African prosecutors plan to charge four former members of the apartheid-era security forces for the 1983 murder of a young woman who had recently graduated from university and was a courier for the then-banned African National Congress. (AP http://yhoo.it/1KDtnmc)

Uganda has bought anti-riot gear ahead of a Feb. 18 election in a move which police say will bolster security during voting but which critics say aims to intimidate opponents of President Yoweri Museveni, who is seeking to extend his 30-year rule. (Reuters http://bit.ly/23VekL8)

Suspected cultists attacked a gas storage facility run by the local arm of Italian oil company Eni in Nigeria’s oil-rich delta region, an army spokesman said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1Q5HrRz)

African forces began a U.S.-led counter-terrorism training program in Senegal, amid what a U.S. commander said were rising signs of collaboration between Islamist militant groups across north Africa and the Sahel. (VOA http://bit.ly/1Q5HmNE)

South Africa’s highest court on Tuesday heard a case against President Jacob Zuma, who is accused of violating the constitution in a scandal over state spending on his private home. (AP http://yhoo.it/23Vefaq)

MENA

Russia should immediately end its airstrikes in Syria as a condition for negotiations between the opposition and the central government in Damascus, Interfax news agency quoted a Syrian opposition member as saying on Tuesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1op9rtr)

A British-educated cardiologist has become a media darling in Palestine and now speaks of ambitious plans to raise the level of the entire Palestinian medical infrastructure. (AP http://yhoo.it/20IRkjl)

Saudi Arabia says it has shot down a ballistic missile fired from Yemen as a police officer was killed by cross-border fire. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Q5Hrkr)

Hundreds of thousands of civilians could be cut off from food if Syrian government forces encircle rebel-held parts of Aleppo, the United Nations said on Tuesday, warning of a massive new exodus of refugees fleeing a Russian-backed assault. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1KDtk9O)

The United Nations called on Turkey on Tuesday to open its borders to thousands of desperate Syrian refugees fleeing Aleppo, in line with its international obligations to protect people fleeing conflict or persecution. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Q5HvRm)

The International Organization for Migration says 409 people have died this year trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, and migrant crossings in the first six weeks of 2016 are running at nearly ten times the rate of the same period last year. (AP http://yhoo.it/1opdy8H)

Asia

Riot police used batons and pepper spray in Hong Kong early Tuesday to disperse crowds after clashes erupted when authorities tried to move illegal street vendors from a working-class district, the worst street violence since pro-democracy protests in late 2014. (VOA http://bit.ly/1Q5HmgP)

Hundreds more U.S. troops are headed for Afghanistan’s strife-torn Helmand province to shore up security forces who have struggled in the face of sustained Taliban attacks, officials said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Q5FlB4)

An Indian soldier buried by an avalanche for six days in the Himalayan region of Kashmir has been found alive and was pulled from the snow, along with the bodies of nine other soldiers, officials said Tuesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/20IRqHR)

Former Prime Minister Sushil Koirala, a moderate figure in Nepal’s unsettled politics, died on Tuesday, presenting a potential hurdle in attempts to win greater rights for minorities in a new constitution. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1QpK1Cu)

The President of the World Medical Association said Thailand’s universal health program is a model for other emerging economies in Asia, including India, in providing health services to low income workers. There are growing tensions within the Thai health system amid pressures for co-payments to cope with rising costs. (VOA http://bit.ly/1Q5Hs8e)

There is growing concern in South Korea that the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership could further hurt the country’s economy, which is already experiencing a steep drop in exports and slow growth. (VOA http://bit.ly/1Q5Ho8j)

The Americas

Mexican authorities say human remains discovered in the Gulf Coast state of Veracruz belong to two of five young people who disappeared last month. (AP http://yhoo.it/1opdndI)

As El Salvador slips deeper into the grip of violence, the U.S. Peace Corps exits the country, suspending a program in the Central American country that has been in operation since 1962. (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/20IXMqx)

Protesting Haitians should end weeks of sometimes violent street marches and join a dialogue to create a transitional government, Prime Minister Evans Paul said, during his first day as the temporary head of the troubled Caribbean nation. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Q5HoFk)

Organizations of women, who were sterilized against their will under the Government of Alberto Fujimori, protested in Peru’s capital city of Lima to demand justice.” http://bit.ly/1Q7oHaC)

Smoking in bars will be prohibited in Guam next year under a measure that expands provisions to the island’s anti-smoking law. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Q5Hug4)

Kenya could pull out of this summer’s Rio Olympics if the Zika virus in Brazil reaches “epidemic levels”, says the head of Kenya’s Olympic committee. (BBC http://bbc.in/1QpOyVs)

�and the rest

New, unharmful rites of passage should replace female genital mutilation, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said after new data showed there were more victims of the custom than previously estimated. (TRF http://bit.ly/1O1F6Wr)

Swine flu has killed 183 people in Ukraine this winter and is spreading rapidly across eastern Europe and the Middle East. At least 107 people have died in Russia after contracting the disease, 18 in Armenia and 10 in Georgia, according to government figures. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1opdC8w)

Opinion/Blogs

What Is Behind Pierre Nkurunziza’s Defiance? (The New Times http://bit.ly/1Pj4afz)

Nigeria Cracked Polio. So Why Does It Have 3.5 Million Unvaccinated Babies? (The Conversation http://bit.ly/1O1CFDo)

Zika virus: What are the chances I’ll get it? (CNN http://cnn.it/1O1F5lf)

Reporting on Zika When You Have Zika (NYT Magazine http://nyti.ms/1Q5FeWf)

Electric shocks, rape and submersion: ‘gay cures’ and the fight to end them (Guardian http://bit.ly/1Pj8mvZ)

Family Planning in India is Still Deeply Sexist (Inter Press Service http://bit.ly/1Q7oLqV)

South Sudan’s rebel leader: ‘I am a hero. I am a victim’ (Daily Maverick http://bit.ly/20TF1gX)

Washington should avoid repeating Plan Colombia’s failures (Al Jazeera http://bit.ly/1Q7rEYT)

Source: Un Dispatch