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Catholic church to face UN grilling over child sex abuse

The Catholic church will find itself back "in the dock" as it is due to testify before the Committee Against Torture in Geneva.

Almost 400 priests were defrocked by Pope Benedict XVI in two years over child abuse claims. Credit: PA

Last February the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a damning report of the Catholic Church’s handling of its clerical sex abuse crisis, accusing it of being more concerned with protecting its reputation, than it was with looking after children.

More sex abuse victim groups have come forward in the US and submitted fresh claims, it has emerged.

The Catholic Church has criticised the UN's decision to include child abuse allegations at a hearing on torture.

Vatican spokesman Fr Frederico Lombardi rejected the attempt “to bring the issue of the sexual abuse of minors into the discussion on torture” rather than into child protection.

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UN denounces UK's 'boys' club sexist culture'

Sexism in the UK is more pervasive and "in your face" than other countries, a United Nations (UN) investigator has claimed.

UN special rapporteur on violence against women Rashida Manjoo said there is a "boys' club sexist culture" in Britain that influences perceptions of women and girls.

UN special rapporteur on violence Rashida Manjoo Credit: UN/PA

Following a 16-day visit to Britain, Ms Manjoo also warned Government cutbacks have hit violence-against-women services and confirmed reports she was blocked from entering controversial immigration detention centre for women, Yarl's Wood.

In an initial report on violence against women, the South African human rights expert said legal and policy responses focused on harmful practices, such as early and forced marriages but ignored the harms coming from a "a sexist culture that exists in the country".

UN chief voices alarm over Ukraine in Putin phone call

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has voiced his alarm over the escalating Ukraine crisis in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A Russian flag flutters on a barricade in front of Kramatorsk airbase in eastern Ukraine. Credit: REUTERS/Marko Djurica

"The Secretary-General ... underlined that any deepening of the crisis would be profoundly detrimental for all concerned; hence the need for everyone to work to de-escalate the situation," a statement from Ban's office read.

UN Security Council to hold emergency meeting

The UN security council is due to hold an emergency meeting at 1am UK time. Credit: REUTERS/Eric Thayer

The United Nations Security Council will meet for an emergency session to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine today.

A diplomatic source has told Reuters the council will meet at 1am UK time at Russia's request.

Another diplomat has said negotiations are underway on Ukraine's participation.

Briton in Somalia 'working for UN drugs department'

Two consultants working for the United Nations, including one Briton were shot dead at Galkayo Airport in north central Somalia, a UN spokesman has said.

A UN spokesman said that the consultants were working for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

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UN: One million Syrian refugees have fled to Lebanon

A "devastating milestone" has been reached with one million Syrian refugees now in Lebanon which has had a "staggering" impact on the country, the United Nations said.

Syrian refugees in the border town of Arsal, Lebanon. Credit: REUTERS/Hassan Abdallah

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said: "The influx of a million refugees would be massive in any country. For Lebanon, a small nation beset by internal difficulties, the impact is staggering.

"The Lebanese people have shown striking generosity, but are struggling to cope.

"Lebanon hosts the highest concentration of refugees in recent history. We cannot let it shoulder this burden alone."

Refugees from Syria now equal one quarter of Lebanon's population, according to UN figures.

Over half of all chemical weapons removed from Syria

Over half of all of Syria's chemical weapons inventory has been shipped out of the country, the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons have said.

A U.N. chemical weapons expert gathers evidence in Damascus. Credit: A U.N. chemical weapons expert gathers evidence in Damascus.

It said a total of 53.6% of all chemical weapons material accounted for had been removed from or had been destroyed.

The group have asked to be given until April 27 to complete the full removal of the chemicals, which would put the mission two-and-a-half months behind schedule.

Read more on the current situation in Syria

Russia may 'unleash full blown military intervention'

Russia may be preparing a further military incursion to Ukrainian territory, Ukraine's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Yurii Klymenko, told UN diplomats at a briefing on the human rights situation in Ukraine, saying:

There are indications that Russia is on its way to unleash a full blown military intervention in Ukraine's east and south.

The statement was widely supported by other ambassadors, but challenged by a Russian diplomat, who read a prepared statement justifying Russia's actions so far.

Russia vetoes UN resolution condemning referendum

Russia has vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution that declared a planned referendum on the status of Ukraine's Crimea region "can have no validity" and urged nations and international organizations not to recognize it.

An election commission official takes part in the preparations for a referendum at the polling station in the Crimean town of Simferopol. Credit: Reuters

The Russian veto of the draft resolution, drawn up by the United States, was expected.

Moscow, which has sent military forces to the Crimea, is backing Sunday's referendum, which would transfer control of the region from Ukraine to Russia.

The brief resolution noted that the referendum was not backed by the Ukrainian government in Kiev.

"This referendum can have no validity, and cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of Crimea," it states. It calls on "all states, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any alteration of the status of Crimea on the basis of this referendum."

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