Top US diplomat for refugees to leave post

Rohingya refugees wait in line to receive humanitarian aid in the Kutupalong refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, November 4, 2017. (Reuters)
Updated 14 January 2018
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Top US diplomat for refugees to leave post

WASHINGTON: The US diplomat in charge of refugee issues plans to leave his post within days, becoming the third senior US official to depart or be re-assigned from refugee work in recent weeks.
Simon Henshaw, the acting assistant secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, told colleagues in the refugee sector in an email seen by Reuters that he will be leaving the bureau at the end of next week.
In an interview on Saturday evening, Henshaw told Reuters he was leaving his position in a routine professional move unrelated to the Trump administration’s policies, which have curtailed refugee admissions. A State Department spokeswoman also said Henshaw’s move was routine.
Henshaw said his post at the Population, Refugees and Migration bureau had been his longest assignment in his 33-year tenure as a career foreign service officer.
“It very honestly had to do with the fact that I’d felt I’d spent enough time,” Henshaw told Reuters. “I’m used to moving on every two or three years.”
Prior to being named acting assistant secretary at the start of the Trump administration, he served as the principal deputy assistant secretary since July 2013.
The bureau will be run from Jan. 22 onward by Carol O’Connell, the deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs, according to her State Department biography.
“In a world where the number of refugees and displaced persons continues to rise, I think we should all be proud (of) the good that we have done and the help that we have provided to so many,” Henshaw wrote in the Saturday email.
Henshaw is the latest senior US official working on refugee issues to leave a job or be sidelined as the Trump administration reshapes US refugee admissions.
Since taking office last year, President Donald Trump has slashed the number of refugees allowed into the country, paused the refugee program entirely for four months, instituted stricter vetting requirements and quit negotiations on a voluntary pact to deal with global migration.
On Tuesday, Reuters reported that Lawrence Bartlett, previously the head of the refugee admissions office at the State Department, had been given a temporary re-assignment in the State Department office handling Freedom of Information Act requests.
Earlier this month, Barbara Strack, chief of the Refugee Affairs Division at US Citizenship and Immigration Services, under the Department of Homeland Security, said she would retire in January.


Philippine judge rejects Duterte push for critic's arrest

Updated 30 min 53 sec ago
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Philippine judge rejects Duterte push for critic's arrest

  • The decision from a Manila court denied a government petition to take Senator Antonio Trillanes into custody
  • Trillanes has attacked the president's deadly narcotics crackdown, but also accused Duterte of corruption

MANILA: A Philippine judge rejected on Monday an effort by President Rodrigo Duterte to arrest one of his fiercest critics, a decision hailed by opponents as a check on the leader and a victory for the rule of law.
The decision from a Manila court denied a government petition to take Senator Antonio Trillanes into custody on charges for which the lawmaker had already been granted amnesty.
Trillanes has attacked the president's deadly narcotics crackdown, but also accused Duterte of corruption and his son of involvement in drug dealing.
"We wish to thank Judge Andres Soriano who has singlehandedly upheld justice and the rule of law in the country despite extreme pressure coming from the Duterte regime," a beaming Trillanes told reporters.
The order for Trillanes' arrest stems from the president voiding in September an amnesty granted eight years ago to the senator, an ex-navy officer, for his role in two coup attempts in the mid-2000s.
Duterte alleged the lawmaker did not complete the requirements of filing an official application and admitting guilt, but Monday's ruling threw out those arguments.
However, this decision is unlikely to be the final word on this case. The Philippines' top court is weighing the constitutional questions posed by Duterte's amnesty revocation and the government all but pledged to appeal.
"This is not the end. Nobody has to claim total victory here," Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told reporters. "This may be subject to review by the higher courts."
Monday's news came as Trillanes was on bail over another military uprising case that was revived by Duterte revoking the lawmaker's amnesty.
His arrest last month in that case made Trillanes the second senator critical of Duterte's drug war to be detained. Leila de Lima has been behind bars since February 2017 on charges she says were concocted to silence her.
Human Rights Watch called Monday's decision a temporary victory for rule of law in the Philippines.
"The Duterte administration's campaign is designed to silence Trillanes," HRW researcher Carlos Conde told AFP.
"We expect it (the government) to continue, even ramp up, this political harassment and intimidation," he added.
Trillanes had faced rebellion and coup d'etat charges for being among military officers who rose up against then president Gloria Arroyo over alleged corruption and mismanagement.
He led scores of junior officers in taking over part of a main district of Manila in 2003 and seized a posh Manila hotel in 2007 along with several armed followers as they demanded Arroyo's resignation.