Mass-execution of militants in Iraq ‘appalls’ UN

Mass-execution of militants in Iraq ‘appalls’ UN
Iraqi security forces walk with their weapons during military training in Jurf al-Sakhar, in this April 9, 2015 file photo. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 December 2017

Mass-execution of militants in Iraq ‘appalls’ UN

Mass-execution of militants in Iraq ‘appalls’ UN

GENEVA/STOCKHOLM: The UN on Friday harshly criticized the mass-hanging of 38 men at a prison in southern Iraq this week, urging Baghdad to immediately halt all executions.
Iraq on Thursday hanged 38 militants belonging to Daesh or Al-Qaeda for terrorism offenses at a prison in the southern city of Nasiriyah, according to provincial authorities.
It was the largest number of executions in Iraq on a single day since Sept. 25, when 42 people were put to death in the same prison.
“We are deeply shocked and appalled at the mass execution on Thursday,” UN human rights office spokeswoman Liz Throssell told reporters in Geneva.
The hangings, she warned, “once again raises huge concerns about the use of the death penalty in the country.”
The UN had determined that all of the 38 executed prisoners were men and had been convicted for terrorism-related crimes, but could say nothing more about their identities, she said.
A prison source however told AFP that they were all Iraqis, but that one also held Swedish nationality.
The executions came after Prime Minister Haider Abadi on Saturday declared victory against Daesh after a three-year campaign by government forces backed by a US-led coalition to retake territory seized by the militants.
The UN and rights watchdog Amnesty International have repeatedly voiced concerns about the use of the death penalty in Iraq, which ranks among the world’s top executioners, after China and Iran.
“Given the flaws of the Iraqi justice system, it appears extremely doubtful that strict due process and fair trial guarantees were followed in these 38 cases,” Throssell warned.
“This raises the prospect of irreversible miscarriages of justice and violations of the right to life,” she said.
The UN has learned of 106 executions in Iraq so far this year, including the mass-hangings in September.
“We once again urge the Iraqi authorities to halt all executions, establish an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty and carry out an urgent and comprehensive review of the criminal justice system,” Throssell said.

Sweden summons Iraq envoy
Sweden on Friday summoned Iraq’s ambassador after condemning the hanging of an Iraqi-Swedish citizen among 38 militants.
“The death penalty is an inhumane, cruel, and irreversible punishment. Sweden and the rest of the EU condemn its application in all its forms,” Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement.
“We have repeatedly throughout the years and at all levels protested against our citizens being sentenced to death,” she said.
“We had appealed to Iraq to not enforce the sentence but to turn it into a prison sentence,” Wallstrom said. A source at the prison said all the militants were Iraqis, while the Swedish citizen, who Swedish media reports said was in his 60s, had dual Iraqi citizenship.
Swedish authorities did not confirm his age, nor how he ended up in Iraq or whether he was a Daesh or Al-Qaeda member.
The Swedish Foreign Ministry said he “lived in Iraq” and was “sentenced to death by an Iraqi court in 2010 for terrorist crimes.”


Sharjah Honours Kenyan Humanitarian Outfit, RefuSHE, for Pioneering Contributions in Child and Girl-Focused Refugee Development

Sharjah Honours Kenyan Humanitarian Outfit, RefuSHE, for Pioneering Contributions in Child and Girl-Focused Refugee Development
Updated 21 June 2021

Sharjah Honours Kenyan Humanitarian Outfit, RefuSHE, for Pioneering Contributions in Child and Girl-Focused Refugee Development

Sharjah Honours Kenyan Humanitarian Outfit, RefuSHE, for Pioneering Contributions in Child and Girl-Focused Refugee Development
  • The $136,000 award is given annually by The Big Heart Foundation in collaboration with UNHCR
  • RefuSHE was acknowledged for its efforts in protecting, educating and empowering refugee girls, children and young women (13-21)

SHARJAH: RefuSHE, a Nairobi-based humanitarian agency, was conferred with the 2021 Sharjah International Award for Refugee Advocacy and Support (SIARA) at a virtual ceremony.
Founded in 2008, RefuSHE addresses the significant, unmet needs for child and girl-focused refugee services in Kenya.
The $136,000 award, now in its fifth edition, is given annually by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a UAE-based global humanitarian organization dedicated to helping refugees and people in need worldwide, in collaboration with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
With the COVID-19 pandemic deepening the vulnerabilities of marginalized women and girls, the SIARA selection committee acknowledged the leading contributions of RefuSHE, a girl- and woman-centric humanitarian organization, for its efforts in protecting, educating, and empowering orphaned, unaccompanied, and separated refugee girls, children and young women aged 13 — 21 in the Great Lakes region of East Africa.
Through a holistic model comprising of trauma-informed and girl-centric interventions and long-term programs that address urgent safety, shelter and health care concerns to economic empowerment, vocational training, and mental health initiatives, among others, RefuSHE has enabled 5,000 individuals, and around 20,000 indirect beneficiaries build healthier and more resilient futures for themselves and their children.
Three entities shortlisted for SIARA 2021, namely, RefuSHE from Kenya, International Network for Aid Relief and Assistance (INARA), which works for forcibly displaced children and youth in Lebanon and Turkey, and Iraq’s The Lotus Flower from Kurdistan which economically empowers vulnerable women and girls through innovative projects.
They are also recipients of a special grant this edition instituted by TBHF, in collaboration with UAE-based NAMA Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA). The $300,000-grant will be divided evenly among the three non-profit organizations.


Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant shut down over ‘technical fault’

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant shut down over ‘technical fault’
Updated 21 June 2021

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant shut down over ‘technical fault’

Iran’s Bushehr nuclear plant shut down over ‘technical fault’
  • The shutdown comes as Tehran and world powers attempt to revive a hobbled 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna talk
  • The statement said the plant will be reconnected to the grid and the issue will be resolved “in a few days”

TEHRAN: Iran’s only nuclear power plant has been temporarily shut down over a “technical fault,” the country’s atomic energy body said in a statement.
The Bushehr plant and its 1,000-megawatt reactor, on Iran’s southern coast, were completed by Russia after years of delay and officially handed over in September 2013, raising regional concerns in what is an earthquake prone area.
The shutdown comes as Tehran and world powers attempt to revive a hobbled 2015 agreement on Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna talks, which an EU negotiator said Sunday were moving “closer to a deal.”
That agreement is staunchly opposed by Israel, which Tehran has accused in the past of sabotage against its nuclear enrichment efforts.
“Following a technical fault at Bushehr power plant, and after a one-day notice to the energy ministry, the plant was temporarily shut down and taken off the power grid,” the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said on its website around Sunday midnight.
The statement said the plant will be reconnected to the grid and the issue will be resolved “in a few days,” but did not elaborate further.
Iran’s national electricity company had in a statement on Sunday called on Iranians to minimize consumption during peak hours due to a “predicted rise in temperature” and “limitations in power generation due to ongoing repairs” at Bushehr.
The company said that the repairs may continue until the end of the week, which is Friday in Iran.
In 2016, Russian and Iranian firms began building two additional 1,000-megawatt reactors at Bushehr. Their construction was expected to take 10 years.
Iran’s Gulf Arab neighbors have often raised concerns about the reliability of the facility and the risk of radioactive leaks in the event of a major earthquake.
In April, Bushehr province was shaken by a 5.9-magnitude earthquake, leaving five people injured but causing “no damage” to the nuclear complex, according to authorities.
Also in April, Iran accused Israel of being behind a “terrorist” attack on its Natanz uranium enrichment plant, after a “small explosion” at that facility’s electricity distribution center.
Iran started rolling blackouts in May this year after Tehran and several other cities were hit by unannounced power cuts that sparked complaints from consumers and an apology from the energy minister.
The shortages were blamed on heat, drought impacting hydropower generation, and surging electricity demand blamed in part on crypto-currency mining.
Power cuts in the peak summer months are not uncommon in Iran, but a government report last month said precipitation was down 34 percent compared to the country’s long-term average, and warned of reduced water supplies for the year.
Since late May, the energy ministry regularly notifies citizens of “potential blackouts” lasting at least two hours, unless consumption in their area drops.
Iran’s outgoing President Hassan Rouhani last month announced a ban on all crypto-currency mining until September to reduce the pressure on the power grid.
The Islamic republic has announced plans to construct 20 nuclear power plants in the long-term in order to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.
The 2015 nuclear deal promised Iran sanctions relief in return for limits on its nuclear program.
The deal was torpedoed in 2018 after the former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it and reimposed punishing sanctions on the Islamic republic.
But Trump’s successor Joe Biden favors rejoining the accord and the remaining parties are engaged in negotiations in Vienna to try to salvage it.
On May 23, nine people were injured in a blast at a plant producing explosive materials in central Iran, local media reported, and three days later, a pipeline explosion at a petrochemical complex near Iran’s Gulf coast left one dead.
Some in the Islamic republic see the various events as the result of attacks by Israel’s security forces. Others consider US sanctions — which almost completely isolate Iran from the rest of the world, complicating the maintenance of industrial facilities — as a more likely cause.
In July last year, a “worn out transformer” was blamed by a provincial electricity company for an explosion that hit a thermal power plant in the central province of Isfahan.


UAE public schools to fully reopen with remote learning option

UAE public schools to fully reopen with remote learning option
Updated 21 June 2021

UAE public schools to fully reopen with remote learning option

UAE public schools to fully reopen with remote learning option
  • Given the rapid vaccination program, the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee also recommended Monday the easing of restrictions for nurseries

DUBAI: UAE public schools will fully reopen in September with a remote option, the country’s Emirates Schools Establishment (ESE) announced.
A special protocol for returning to school will be developed in coordination with the Ministry of Education, the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority, ESE said, aimed at ensuring the safety of students and faculty.
The announcement comes as more than 72 percent of the staff at public schools have been inoculated against the coronavirus, paving the way for in person learning, according to authorities.
Given the rapid vaccination program, the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee also recommended Monday the easing of restrictions for nurseries.
Nurseries, which have been operating at limited capacity, can now increase the number of children in each group or “bubble.”
For those aged between 45 days and two-years-old, a bubble can now include 12 children, up from eight, while for the age group of two-years-old to four, a bubble can include 16 children, up from 10.
Nurseries, however, must continue ensuring a minimum space requirement of 3.5 square meters per child in each classroom and an area of 5 square meters in open areas.
The decision came following a review of COVID-19 statistics related to cases in children’s nurseries in Abu Dhabi, which showed a consistently low infection rate, authorities said. 
The latest developments in the sector will be a welcoming sight for parents, more than a year after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic that disrupted education procedures globally.


UN experts urge Tehran to release female human rights defender

UN experts urge Tehran to release female human rights defender
Updated 21 June 2021

UN experts urge Tehran to release female human rights defender

UN experts urge Tehran to release female human rights defender
  • Nasrin Sotoudeh, one of Iran’s top lawyers, faces 38 years behind bars
  • ‘The severe sentences she has received appear to be intended to silence her work and to intimidate other human rights defenders’

LONDON: Independent human rights and political experts working on behalf of the UN have urged Tehran to release Nasrin Sotoudeh, a lawyer and outspoken defender of human rights in Iran, and decried her recent transfer to another prison under “dire conditions.”

Sotoudeh has been detained since June 2018 and faces a total of 38 years behind bars on nine charges, including “encouraging corruption and prostitution.” 

UN experts — including Dubravka Simonovic, special rapporteur on violence against women; and Javaid Rehman, special rapporteur on human rights in Iran — have called on Tehran to release Sotoudeh “as a matter of urgency.”

They said in a joint statement: “Iran must put an end to the criminalisation of Nasrin Sotoudeh for her legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights.”

They added: “Despite our many calls over the years to release Ms. Sotoudeh, Iranian authorities have failed to do so, and instead they have transferred her to another prison, farther away from her family and under dire conditions.”

Sotoudeh was one of Iran’s top lawyers, and previously represented Nobel Peace Prize winners, former senior government officials and many human rights defenders in court.

Since October 2020, she has been detained in the overcrowded and unsanitary Qarchak prison — Iran’s most feared women’s prison.

The facility suffers from a lack of access to healthcare for inmates, insufficient and unhealthy food, and rodent and insect infestations.

While detained, the UN experts said, Sotoudeh’s health has seriously deteriorated and she has tested positive for COVID-19.

They added: “Nasrin Sotoudeh’s case is sadly not isolated, and the severe sentences she has received appear to be intended to silence her work and to intimidate other human rights defenders, including her family.” 


War monitor: Syria regime shelling on Idlib kills 9

War monitor: Syria regime shelling on Idlib kills 9
Updated 21 June 2021

War monitor: Syria regime shelling on Idlib kills 9

War monitor: Syria regime shelling on Idlib kills 9
  • The violence was the latest in a spate of violations of a cease-fire deal that was brokered by Turkey and Russia in March 2020

BEIRUT: Syrian government shelling on the rebel-controlled enclave of Idlib Monday killed at least nine people, including four civilians, a war monitor reported.
The violence was the latest in a spate of violations of a cease-fire deal that was brokered by Turkey and Russia in March 2020 and had largely held since.
Monday’s artillery fire struck several locations near the cease-fire lines and one Syrian soldier was killed in retaliatory fire, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
In one incident in the village of Al-Bara, two women were killed by regime shelling, the Observatory said.
In the village of Ihsem, shelling struck a police station, killing one policeman and four members of armed groups opposed to the government of President Bashar Assad and its allies.
Another 13 people were wounded, the monitor said.
Both areas are under the control of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, a militant organization that includes ex-members of Al Qaeda’s former Syria affiliate.
Smaller factions are also present in those areas, said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the UK-based Observatory.
The northwestern Idlib region, which borders Turkey to the north and is home to more than a million people, is the last part of Syria controlled by rebel or militant groups.
Assad’s regime, backed by Russia and Iran, has vowed to retake the region and the enclave shrank under pressure from deadly land and air offensives.
A cease-fire deal brokered by Ankara — the main rebel backer — and Moscow was reached 15 months ago.
Despite sporadic skirmishes along the cease-fire lines, the truce has largely held, averting a major assault that aid groups warned could cause suffering on a scale yet unseen in the decade-old war.
The past few weeks have witnessed an uptick in violations, mostly by regime and allied forces, Abdel Rahman said.
“The escalation is unprecedented since the start of the truce,” he said.
On June 10, 12 people were killed in regime shelling on the Idlib region, in what was one of the deadliest incidents since the cease-fire came into effect.
According to the Observatory, close to half a million people have been killed by conflict since March 2011, when brutal government repression of pro-democracy protests ignited a civil war that also displaced half of Syria’s population.