US agents fire tear gas at ‘violent mob’ near Mexico border

A US Custom and Border Protection (CBP) official points his weapon at migrants as they prepare to cross the border fence illegally from Mexico into the US, in Tijuana, Mexico, January 1, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 02 January 2019
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US agents fire tear gas at ‘violent mob’ near Mexico border

  • Thousands of Central American migrants have been camping at shelters in Tijuana since arriving in November after traveling in caravans across Mexico to reach the US border

TIJUANA, Mexico: US border agents launched tear gas into Mexico early on Tuesday to deter a group of migrants that one official called “a violent mob” from crossing over from Tijuana, according to a Reuters witness and the US government.
Clouds of the noxious gas could be seen wafting up from around the fence at the border. One migrant picked up a canister and threw it back into US territory.
US officials said the group had attacked agents with projectiles, but a Reuters witness did not see any migrants throwing rocks at US agents.
Tijuana has become a flashpoint in the debate over US immigration policy, which has been intensified by the recent deaths of two migrant children in American custody and a partial US government shutdown over President Donald Trump’s demand for $5 billion in funding for a wall along the border with Mexico.
A previous incident in November when US agents fired gas into Mexico to disperse migrants triggered a call from Mexico’s government for an investigation.
Mexico Foreign Ministry spokesman Roberto Velasco said the government “regrets the events” at the border. He said Mexico “advocates respect for migrants’ human rights, security and integrity, while calling for respect for laws on both sides of the border.”
Late on Monday, more than 150 Central American migrants approached an area of the border in Tijuana in the Playas neighborhood near the beach. Migrants said they thought security measures might be relaxed due to the New Year’s holiday.
After midnight, US security personnel fired tear gas into Mexico as some migrants prepared to climb a border fence, according to the Reuters witness. During a second attempt, migrants began to pass youths and children over the razor wire along the fencing to the US side.
US Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Katie Waldman called the group “a violent mob” and said they had thrown projectiles at agents who responded with “the minimum force necessary to defend themselves.”
“Congress needs to fully fund the border wall,” Waldman said in a statement.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said in a statement that the gas was aimed upwind of people throwing rocks on the Mexican side who obstructed agents from helping the children being passed over razor wire.
The CBP statement said agents had not directly targeted the migrants attempting to cross the fence with tear gas and pepper spray.
A Reuters witness documented in one photo where a migrant had been hit by what appeared to be a gas canister.
CBP said most of the migrants attempting to cross returned back to Mexico while 25 people, including two teenagers, were detained.
Thousands of Central American migrants have been camping at shelters in Tijuana since arriving in November after traveling in caravans across Mexico to reach the US border, where many have hoped to request asylum.
Mexico’s new leftist president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has sought to not antagonize Trump over the US president’s demands for a border wall. He obtained a pledge from the United States to contribute billions of dollars for development in Mexico’s poor south and Central America in order to deter migration.
Trump has backed away from his campaign pledge to make Mexico pay for a wall, but just last week he threatened to close the border with Mexico unless he gets the money he wants from US lawmakers for a barrier.
The United States has also pushed Mexico to house Central American migrants while they seek US asylum.


Swiss parliament backs expelling militants to states that use torture

Updated 19 March 2019
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Swiss parliament backs expelling militants to states that use torture

  • Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter told a debate in parliament that the government sympathized with proponents of the measure but its hands were tied
  • One of the convicted militants is a wheelchair-bound man found guilty in 2016 of planning terrorist attacks and helping Daesh operatives enter Switzerland

ZURICH: Switzerland’s parliament approved allowing convicted militants to be sent home to countries where they could face torture, leaving the government to decide how to implement the motion without breaking international law.
The Swiss constitution bans expelling people to countries where they might be subject to torture. But parlimament’s upper house on Tuesday narrowly adopted a motion allowing exceptions for foreign militants, as the Swiss lower house had done.
The motion stems from discontent among lawmakers over the ability of Iraqi militants convicted in Swiss courts of aiding Daesh to avoid being sent home because of the ban on exposing people to torture or other inhumane treatment.
Conservative critics say the ban has cost taxpayer money to care for convicted militants and angered citizens who say Switzerland should not have to host such people on its soil.
Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter told a debate in parliament that the government sympathized with proponents of the measure but its hands were tied.
“The security of the Swiss population has top priority but we also have to adhere to the limits of the rule of law.”
One of the convicted militants is a wheelchair-bound man found guilty in 2016 of planning terrorist attacks and helping Daesh operatives enter Switzerland. Freed from prison, he now lives in a transit center for asylum seekers and is fighting extradition.
Switzerland said this month it would not help bring home its own stranded citizens who had joined extremist forces in Syria and Iraq, insisting national security was paramount.
Switzerland is a signatory to the United Nations’ 1984 Convention against Torture, which bars expulsions of people to another state where there are substantial grounds for believing they would be in danger of being subjected to torture.
Iraq is also a party to the convention, but lacks laws or guidelines providing for judicial action when defendants allege torture or mistreatment, Human Rights Watch said in a report last year. It said torture was rampant in Iraq’s justice system.