Nobody should be forcibly returned to Libya, says HRW

Human Rights Watch chief Kenneth Roth
Updated 18 January 2018
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Nobody should be forcibly returned to Libya, says HRW

PARIS: European authorities should not be sending migrants trying to reach the continent back to Libya until the security situation there has stabilized, the chief of Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
“The way migrants are treated in Libya is horrendous, where we hear over and over stories of forced labor, forced sexual abuse, torture,” Kenneth Roth said in an interview as the group released its annual report on risks around the globe.
While acknowledging Europe’s right to restrict immigration after hundreds of thousands have poured into member states in recent years, Roth criticized a Brussels-backed deal that helps Libya block migrants from trying to reach Europe.
“The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has said that more migrants are dying inside Libya than die once they get in a boat to cross the Mediterranean. So that gives you a sense of how bad things are,” Roth said.
At least 3,100 migrants died or disappeared trying to cross to Europe last year, the IOM has said, though attempts have slowed since the deal by Libya and Italy, the main destination, to halt the flow.
Shocking images last year of black Africans being sold in Libya have led European officials to stop returning migrants to the country, Roth said.
“But they’re trying to do indirectly what they can’t do directly by building up and training the Libyan coast guard so that the Libyans on their own can simply return people back to the traffickers,” he said.
“You can help them return home if that’s what they want, but nobody should be forcibly returned to Libya.”
Roth, a 62-year-old former lawyer, also underscored the risks as more populist leaders come to power around the world, while criticizing Western governments for not pushing hard enough against leaders accused of rights abuses in their own countries.
While he qualified the arrival of US President Donald Trump as “a moment of despair,” he was also critical of his predecessor Barack Obama over failing to close the Guantanamo prison or take stronger action against Syria’s Bashar Assad.
“I admire President Obama,” Roth said, but “he wasn’t willing to pay the political price to actually close Guantanamo ... He wasn’t really willing to do anything to stop Assad committing mass atrocities in Syria.”
HRW, which publishes about 100 reports on dozens of countries each year, has seen its prominence grow over the past two decades, becoming a multinational advocacy group employing some 425 people.
It is backed by private donations from individuals and foundations, including that of US billionaire George Soros.
“Everybody likes to pretend that they respect human rights; When we’re able to show that they fall short, it’s embarrassing,” Roth said.


Taliban’s Ghazni assault sparks new Pak-Afghan tensions

Updated 18 August 2018
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Taliban’s Ghazni assault sparks new Pak-Afghan tensions

  • Pakistan’s Foreign Office says Afghanistan has not shared any evidence to support its recent allegations against Pakistan
  • Imran Khan’s idea of a soft border between Pakistan and Afghanistan may have suffered a big setback in the wake of the Ghazni attack

PESHAWAR: In the backdrop of the Taliban’s brazen assault on the southern city of Ghazni in Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani alleged that the bodies of the perpetrators had arrived in Pakistan, though Islamabad maintained that Kabul had not officially shared any information or evidence in this regard.
Soon after that, the Afghan president said in a fiery speech to a jirga in Ghazni: “I have a message for Pakistan. Dead bodies (of the Taliban) have arrived in (Pakistan). Peace cannot be forcefully imposed on Afghanistan. Where did they (Taliban) come from and why are they being treated in (Pakistani) hospitals?”
But Pakistan strongly rejected reports claiming that some Taliban fighters involved in the Ghazni attack had been offered medical treatment in its hospitals.
In the absence of any official communication through regular channels established bilaterally, such reports cannot be given any credence, said Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday.
Haq Nawaz, a senior Peshawar-based security analyst, told Arab News that the newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan faced a string of daunting challenges, such as economic revival, political stability, tackling corruption, and improving relations with his country’s immediate neighbors.
However, he added that recent developments in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have stepped up violent activities, will probably constitute a much bigger predicament for the new political administration.
He recalled that Khan had mentioned in his victory speech that he wanted a European Union-style soft border with Afghanistan, claiming that the idea had seemingly received a setback after the Ghazni attack.
“The latest bout of allegations will have a negative impact on the process of reviving good relations between the two neighboring countries,” Nawaz noted.
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa also expressed “deep concern” over the recent surge in violence in Afghanistan and lamented in a statement released by the military’s media wing the loss of precious lives.
Bajwa reiterated that Pakistan was not supporting terrorist activities inside Afghanistan. He added that the allegation about the movement of injured or dead terrorists from Ghazni to Pakistan was incorrect.
However, the army chief noted that there were scores of Pakistanis working in Afghanistan, and that some of them periodically fell victim to acts of terrorism along with their Afghan brothers inside Afghanistan. “Terming such victims as terrorists is unfortunate,” he maintained.
Yet, the Afghan president sought an explanation from Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership on the Ghazni attack.
“Imran Khan, you are the son of Pashtun parents. Investigate this and give me an answer. General Bajwa, you have repeatedly given me assurances over phone calls that special attention would be given to the issue of peace in Afghanistan once elections took place in Pakistan. Now give me an answer,” Ghani said while addressing a group of tribal elders attending the jirga.
Bajwa said that different factions of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan hiding in their sanctuaries in Afghanistan after assuming Afghan identities, were transported to Pakistan for medical help after receiving injuries.
Nawaz said the Afghan government should share relevant evidence with Pakistan in this case, arguing that using the media or social media to deal with such serious and sensitive developments can worsen the situation.
He said it was not just a statement or allegation from an ordinary official since the claim was made by a head of state, adding that both countries should settle such teething issues through dialogue and diplomatic channels.
However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted in its statement: “Such reports can only be viewed as malicious propaganda to vitiate the existing cooperation between the two countries.”