World AIDS Day; Syria; DRC; Human Rights Day; and more

World AIDS Day: As the world heads into the fourth decade of AIDS, it is finally in a position to end the epidemic, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, leading a chorus of United Nations officials in calling for the political will, investments and determination to reach this goal. “Momentum is on our side. Let us use it to end AIDS – once and for all,” Mr. Ban said in his message for World AIDS Day, observed on 1 December each year. The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is “Getting to Zero.”

In a related development, Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS),  welcomed China’s decision to fill its HIV resource gap by increasing domestic investments. The new commitment from China comes at a crucial moment, according to UNAIDS, as resources for AIDS are declining and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is facing a major setback in resource mobilization.

Syria: The U.N.’s top human rights official says her office estimates the death toll in Syria’s nine-month uprising is now “much more” than 4,000. Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, gave the latest figure a day before the global body is due to hold an emergency meeting on the crisis in the country. Pillay told reporters in Geneva on Thursday that evidence emerging of abuses committed by Syrian security forces affirms her call that the country’s leadership should be prosecuted for “crimes against humanity.”

DR Congo:
Top UN officials today deplored the violence that marred this week’s elections in certain areas in the DRC and urged all sides to exercise restraint and to resolve any differences through peaceful means. The UN Joint Human Rights Office in DRC, which has been monitoring election-related violence, is investigating reports that more than 10 people have allegedly been killed by security forces and supporters of political parties, and many more wounded through the use of live ammunition, in the capital, Kinshasa, since 26 November. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stressed that political leaders from all sides have a crucial role to play at this important crossroads in the history of DRC.

DESA Report:
The world risks falling back into recession if developed countries embark prematurely on fiscal austerity measures, according to a UN report released today in New York, which recommends additional stimulus measures as well as more forceful international coordination to stimulate job creation and investment. The report underscores four mutually reinforcing factors that are weakening the global economy: sovereign debt distress; fragile banking sectors; weak aggregate demand associated with fiscal austerity measures and high unemployment; and policy paralysis caused by political gridlock. If one of them worsens, the report warns, there is a high risk of setting off “a vicious circle leading to severe financial turmoil and economic downturn.”

Human Rights Day:
The United Nations has launched a social media campaign to encourage people to get involved in the global human rights movement, inspired by the role played by tools such as Facebook and Twitter in the awakening that transformed parts of the Arab world this year. “Our social media human rights campaign focuses on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and aims to help more people know, demand and defend human rights,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. The campaign launched by the High Commissioner’s Office (OHCHR) comes ahead of Human Rights Day, observed annually on 10 December – the birthday of the Declaration.

ICC Prosecutor:
States Parties to the international treaty that created the International Criminal Court have selected Fatou B. Bensouda of the Gambia as the consensus candidate to be the next prosecutor, the court said today. Ms. Bensouda is expected to be elected on 12 December at the tenth session of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the ICC, the court said in a press release. She will assume office 16 June next year to replace Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina, who has been prosecutor since 2003 and whose term will come to an end.

A team from the ICC arrived Wednesday in Libya to probe sexual crimes committed by loyalists of slain dictator Moamer Kadhafi during the revolt against his rule. Jane O’Toole, the ICC investigator leading the team, said the ICC investigation would probe all aspects of major sexual crimes against women. ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo in June said that the court’s investigators have evidence that Kadhafi ordered mass rapes and bought containers of sex drugs for troops to attack women during the revolt.