Theresa May marks Armistice centenary in Belgium, France

British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron visit the World War I French-British memorial at Thiepval, France. (Reuters)
Updated 09 November 2018
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Theresa May marks Armistice centenary in Belgium, France

  • Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel accompanied May to the St. Symphorien cemetery near Mons
  • A wreath combining poppies and le bleuet, the two national emblems of remembrance was placed by Macron and May at the Thiepval Memorial

SOMME VALLEY, France: Prime Minister Theresa May laid a wreath at a cemetery in Belgium and traveled to northern France on Friday to honor 700,000 British soldiers killed in World War One, on the eve of commemorations to mark the centenary of the Armistice.
Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel accompanied May to the St. Symphorien cemetery near Mons, where she laid tributes at the graves of the first and last British soldiers killed in the war. May said the commemorations were a time to “reflect on our shared history, but also look ahead to our shared future.”
More than 500 German and British Commonwealth soldiers are buried at the St. Symphorien cemetery.
Among them is Private John Parr, a reconnaissance soldier who was killed on Aug. 21, 1914, when his commanding officer sent him into enemy territory on his bicycle to gather intelligence on German military moves. He was 17 years old.


Parr’s headstone stands opposite that of George Ellison, the last British soldier to lose his life in the war. He died 90 minutes before the Armistice came into effect on Nov 11, 1918.
“That their graves lie opposite each other is a fitting and poignant symbol that brings home the eternal bond between them, and every member of the armed forces who gave their lives to protect what we hold so dear,” May said.
“We remember the heroes who lost their lives in the horror of the trenches. As the sun sets on 100 years of remembrance, we will never forget their sacrifice.”
Michel tweeted: “The duty of memory is a must.”

British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron lay a wreath of flowers at the Thiepval Memorial. (Reuters)

May also held a working lunch with French President Emmanuel Macron in Albert, a town in the heart of the Somme region, as she steps up efforts to court European support for a Brexit agreement.
The two leaders then attended a ceremony at the Thiepval Memorial. A wreath combining poppies and le bleuet, the two national emblems of remembrance, has been made for the occasion.
Thiepval’s memorial stands on high ground overlooking the Somme river, where some of the heaviest fighting of World War One took place. It commemorates more than 72,000 British and South African soldiers who died and have no known grave.

 


Japan apologizes to those forcibly sterilized, vows redress

Updated 24 April 2019
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Japan apologizes to those forcibly sterilized, vows redress

  • An estimated 25,000 people were given unconsented sterilization while the 1948 Eugenics Protection Law was in place until 1996
  • The government had until recently maintained the sterilizations were legal at the time

TOKYO: Japan’s government apologized Wednesday to tens of thousands of victims forcibly sterilized under a now-defunct Eugenics Protection Law and promised to pay compensation.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said he was offering “sincere remorse and heartfelt apology” to the victims.
His apology comes just after the parliament enactment earlier Wednesday of legislation to provide redress measures, including $28,600 (¥3.2 million) compensation for each victim.
An estimated 25,000 people were given unconsented sterilization while the 1948 Eugenics Protection Law was in place until 1996. The law was designed to “prevent the birth of poor-quality descendants” and allowed doctors to sterilize people with disabilities. It was quietly renamed as the Maternity Protection Law in 1996, when the discriminatory condition was removed.
The redress legislation acknowledges that many people were forced to have operations to remove their reproductive organs or radiation treatment to get sterilized, causing them tremendous pain mentally and physically.
The government had until recently maintained the sterilizations were legal at the time.
The apology and the redress law follow a series of lawsuits by victims who came forward recently after breaking decades of silence. That prompted lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties to draft a compensation package to make amends for the victims.
The plaintiffs are seeking about ¥30 million each ($268,000) in growing legal actions that are spreading around the country, saying the government’s implementation of the law violated the victims’ right to self-determination, reproductive health and equality. They say the government redress measures are too small for their suffering.
In addition to the forced sterilizations, more than 8,000 others were sterilized with consent, though likely under pressure, while nearly 60,000 women had abortions because of hereditary illnesses, according to Japan Federation of Bar Associations.
Among them were about 10,000 leprosy patients who had been confined in isolated institutions until 1996, when the leprosy prevention law was also abolished. The government has already offered compensation and an apology to them for its forced isolation policy.