Bouteflika-era figure makes Algeria presidential run

Bouteflika-era figure makes Algeria presidential run
A demonstrator chants slogans and carry a national flag during a protest against the country's ruling elite and rejecting a December presidential election in Algiers. (Reuters)
Updated 23 October 2019

Bouteflika-era figure makes Algeria presidential run

Bouteflika-era figure makes Algeria presidential run
  • The mass protest movement that forced Bouteflika’s resignation in April has rejected moves to hold the poll in December
  • “The most important thing for us is not to convince people to give their signature but to participate in this vote, which remains the only solution to this crisis,” Mihoubi said

ALGIERS: The head of an Algerian political party that was part of the ruling coalition under former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Wednesday became the first candidate to register for presidential polls.
Azzedine Mihoubi, leader of the Democratic National Rally party (RND), submitted his candidacy for the December 12 vote to the National Independent Elections Authority, recently formed to oversee the vote.
A minister of culture in three governments under Bouteflika from 2015 to 2019, Mihoubi assumed leadership of the RND in July after its former head was arrested in a corruption probe.
The mass protest movement that forced Bouteflika’s resignation in April has rejected moves, backed by the army, to hold the poll in December.
Activists are demanding sweeping reforms before any vote takes place, and say Bouteflika-era figures still in power must not use the presidential poll as an opportunity to appoint his successor.
Observers are predicting a weak turnout.
Mihoubi acknowledged the challenge in a statement as he submitted his candidacy along with the required 50,000 signatures endorsing him.
“The most important thing for us is not to convince people to give their signature but to participate in this vote, which remains the only solution to this crisis,” he said.
The Hirak protest movement was formed in February to demand that Bouteflika resign instead of running for a fifth term. It has demanded transitional institutions to replace Algeria’s entire system of government, in place since independence from France in 1962.
Authorities have rejected these demands, but protests continue.
Polls planned for July 4 were postponed due to a lack of viable candidates, plunging the country into a constitutional crisis, as interim president Abdelkader Bensalah’s mandate expired that month.
Bensalah, also an RND member, was speaker of the Upper House for 17 years under Bouteflika.
The RND was founded in 1997 and for 20 years was the main ally of Bouteflika’s National Liberation Front (FLN).
The RND supported Bouteflika’s candidacy for a fifth term, despite him suffering a debilitating stroke in 2013, but his candidacy prompted massive protests that led to his departure.
Until recently, the RND was led by Ahmed Ouyahia, an unpopular three time former prime minister under Bouteflika who was arrested in June in a graft investigation.
Mihoubi’s nomination prompted a flood of negative comments online.
Five other candidates have made appointments to submit their candidacy to the elections authority, spokesman Ali Draa told AFP.
Local media reports indicate that they include two former Bouteflika era prime ministers, Ali Benflis and Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
The deadline for submitting applications is Saturday at midnight (2300 GMT).


UN: Arbitrary detentions in Syria conflict may be war crimes

UN: Arbitrary detentions in Syria conflict may be war crimes
Updated 02 March 2021

UN: Arbitrary detentions in Syria conflict may be war crimes

UN: Arbitrary detentions in Syria conflict may be war crimes
  • 10-year Syrian conflict killed over half a million, displaced half the population and shattered nearly 5 million as refugees abroad, says UN report
  • UN Commission cites suspected human rights violations and abuses since the civil war erupted

GENEVA: Thousands of Syrian civilians were subject to multiple forms of war crimes, including torture and sexual violence, while others' fate remains unknown to date amid "arbitrary detentions" during the country’s 10-year conflict, said a UN commission report released Monday.
The UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria has regularly reported on suspected human rights violations and abuses since the civil war erupted.
According to the report, the Syrian government arbitrarily arrested and detained individuals and committed “war crimes and crimes against humanity in the context of detention.” Other parties in the conflict also committed crimes by unlawfully and arbitrarily depriving individuals of their liberty, it said.
Rival groups have been blamed for atrocities since Syria’s conflict broke out in March 2011 with anti-government protests that morphed into a civil war. They run jails where wide violations are reported against detainees.
The conflict has killed nearly half a million people, displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million, including 5 million who are refugees abroad. Large parts of Syria are destroyed and tens of thousands still live in tent settlements.
The more than 30-page report is based on 2,658 interviews with victims and witnesses conducted from 2011 to the end of 2020, in addition to photographs, videos, satellite imagery, official documents and reports from multiple sources.
It is also based on investigations into more than 100 specific detention facilities, history documents and continued detention-related violations and abuses by nearly every major party that has controlled territory in Syria since 2011.
“The wealth of evidence collected over a decade is staggering, yet the parties to the conflict, with very few exceptions, have failed to investigate their own forces,” said Commissioner Karen Koning AbuZayd.
“The focus appears to be on concealing, rather than investigating crimes committed in the detention facilities,” she added.
The report notes “massive scale of detention” and abuses perpetrated by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government and also lists detentions by insurgent groups, including Turkey-backed opposition fighters, other rebel groups and the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. It also examines the record of the Al-Qaeda-linked Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham and the Daesh group — both designated terrorist organizations by the UN.
The fate of tens of thousands of civilians who were forcibly disappeared by Syrian government forces, many nearly a decade ago, remains unknown, the report said. Many are presumed to have died or been executed, while some are believed to be held in inhuman conditions of detention.
“Hundreds of thousands of family members have a right to the truth about their loved ones’ fate,” said the commission’s chairman, Paulo Pinheiro.
The commission also urged the government in Damascus to take urgent steps to reveal the fate of those missing. The report appeals on all parties to halt and prevent violations, immediately release specific groups of individuals, allow independent monitoring of detention facilities and provide support to victims.
The report is to be discussed by the UN-backed Human Rights Council, which set up the commission, on March 11, as part of its current four-week session.


UAE and Britain powering ahead to green energy targets

UAE and Britain powering ahead to green energy targets
Updated 10 January 2021

UAE and Britain powering ahead to green energy targets

UAE and Britain powering ahead to green energy targets
  • The UAE has shown foresight in the greentech space by laying out its ambitious Energy Strategy 2050

LONDON: With climate change and resource scarcity looming, the global green technology sector is leading the charge to create a cleaner energy future. 

Green technology (greentech) is a broad term for innovative companies that are working towards carbon-neutral solutions for a sustainable planet.

In tandem with its historically hydrocarbon-powered economy, the UAE is now a pioneer in energy diversification, launching some of the world’s most innovative solar, wind and waste-to-energy projects.

Home to a growing population and rising energy demand, the UAE is leveraging its abundant renewable resources and global technology partners to dramatically reduce its carbon footprint. Chief among its collaborators is the UK, which has a long history of greentech expertise and implementation.

According to Sarah Heineman, head of renewable energy at the UK Department for International Trade, there is vast potential for investment and cross-collaboration between the UK and UAE within the greentech industry.

“The British energy sector has one of the most advanced energy systems in the world. It is at the forefront of the transition to decarbonize power generation and has attracted significant private investment into innovation,” she said.

“Over the last five years, relative power emissions in the UK have fallen faster than in any other G10 nation,” Heineman noted, adding that Britain was the first major economy to pass laws for net zero carbon emissions.

Ambitious UAE energy vision

The UAE has shown foresight in the greentech space by laying out its ambitious Energy Strategy 2050. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, green energy has advanced rapidly in the GCC countries since 2014.

The Gulf project pipeline reached almost seven gigawatts of new power generation capacity by 2018, after record-breaking bids in renewable energy auctions in the UAE and Saudi Arabia made solar power cost-competitive with conventional energy technologies.

As well as being home to the world’s largest single-site solar park, Dubai is pioneering waste-to-energy innovation with the Al-Warsan project — which has the capacity to process 1.9 million tons of municipal solid waste per year and power around 135,000 homes.

The UAE’s transition to cleaner energy is helping Britain make the shift to net zero in the UK too. Abu Dhabi-owned energy firm Masdar is leading investment, research and development, and commercialization of renewables in the UAE, and has made multi-billion pound investments in three offshore wind farms in the UK. It has also invested millions in Britain’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Clean energy innovation

A 2018 UN report revealed that global investment in renewable energy and green technology processes surpassed $200 billion in 2017; $2.9 trillion has been invested in sources like solar and wind power since 2004.

In the UK, academia and research centres work closely with greentech companies to develop and commercialise innovative technologies to meet global demand. As the government continues to invest in the sector, Britain has inked hundreds of patents for leading environmental solutions.

“The UK — with its strong pedigree in renewables — is well-placed to help the UAE power ahead with its innovative energy vision and achieve its ambitious targets,” said Patrick Moody, British Ambassador to the UAE. 

UK greentech startups

British startups have already made significant inroads in helping to shape the UAE’s greentech sector. Northern Ireland-based Kiverco has been chosen to design and build the solution that will recycle all waste from Expo 2020 Dubai — a global event staged over six months that will see 25 million visits.

Kiverco installed the plant in early 2020, which will divert the highest percentage of landfill waste than any previous Expo. The recycling solutions will recover ferrous metals, non-ferrous metals, plastic bottles, plastic film, paper and cardboard. Organic waste from the sprawling Expo 2020 Dubai South site will be converted into fertilizer, and construction material will be reused in roads.

Global sales manager at Kiverco, Con Gallagher, said: “The UAE is leading the charge when it comes to sustainable policies. Kiverco now has five active plants in the Gulf region. We are seeing more and more interest as governments turn their focus to mass-recycling strategies.”

UK-based Solar Water Plc, the world’s first carbon-neutral hydro-infrastructure dome, designed to produce clean water for municipal and industrial consumption, is in talks with the UAE government to implement its innovative glass technology.

The dome houses vast parabolic mirrors that capture the sun’s heat; this energy evaporates incoming seawater, which condenses and precipitates as fresh water, creating a constant water cycle within the dome. Salt is extracted from the brine as a by-product and sold commercially, ensuring that neither salt nor brine is returned to the ocean.

“In the last nine months, even amid the coronavirus pandemic, we have created a pipeline of projects in the Middle East,” said David Reavley, CEO of Solar Water. “I think there will be enormous demand over the next two or three decades. We are solving a big problem as the world progresses into climate change vulnerability.”

Patrick Moody, British Ambassador to the UAE, concluded: “The UK’s thriving renewable energy sector has the expertise and practical know-how to harness the UAE’s abundant renewable resources and futuristic sustainability vision. I see great potential for collaboration between the UK and the UAE.”


UAE reports 1,967 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths

UAE reports 1,967 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths
Updated 06 January 2021

UAE reports 1,967 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths

UAE reports 1,967 new COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths
  • UAE says 1,866 have recovered over the past 24 hours
  • Kuwait records 312 cases, Bahrain reports 229 cases

DUBAI: The UAE on Tuesday recorded 1,967 new coronavirus cases and three virus-related deaths.
Officials from the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) said the total number of cases since the pandemic began had reached 216,699. The death toll is 685.
It was also announced that 1,866 people had recovered from the virus in the past 24 hours. The total number of recoveries is 193,321.
The UAE’s Federal Authority for Government Human Resources issued a circular urging all federal authorities to implement several procedures related to their employees and all personnel who work for them, state-run WAM reported.
The circular says “employees of ministries and federal agencies must perform a nasal swab test or PCR test every 14 days; at the employee’s own expense, with the exception of employees who have obtained the COVID-19 vaccine.”
Elsewhere, Kuwait reported 312 new coronavirus cases, raising the total number to 152,027. The death toll remained at 938 after no coronavirus-related deaths were reported in the previous 24 hours.

Oman’s health ministry confirmed 190 new cases and no deaths, bringing the totals to 129,774 and 1,502, respectively.

In Bahrain, zero deaths was reported, keeping the death toll to 352, while 229 new infected cases were confirmed.


One killed, three soldiers injured in Israeli attack in Syria- SANA

One killed, three soldiers injured in Israeli attack in Syria- SANA
Updated 30 December 2020

One killed, three soldiers injured in Israeli attack in Syria- SANA

One killed, three soldiers injured in Israeli attack in Syria- SANA

CAIRO: One person was killed and three soldiers injured as a result of “Israeli aggression” in the Damascus countryside, Syrian state news agency SANA said on Wednesday, quoting a military source.
The source said the “Israeli enemy” carried out an attack from Northern Galilee and targeted an air defense unit in the Nabi Habeel area, said SANA.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli military declined to comment on the SANA report.


Oman relaxes COVID-19 measure for tourists

Oman relaxes COVID-19 measure for tourists
Updated 11 December 2020

Oman relaxes COVID-19 measure for tourists

Oman relaxes COVID-19 measure for tourists
  • Tourists must register for a coronavirus polymerase test which they are required to take upon arrival

DUBAI: Tourists traveling to Oman are now exempted from self-isolation and coronavirus testing before arriving to the country, local daily Times of Oman reported.
“The ministry would like to inform you that, based on the instructions received from the Ministry of Health, it has become possible to exempt tourists from quarantine and polymerase testing (PCR) before coming to the Sultanate, provided they adhere to the procedures that include a compulsory international health insurance that covers the costs of treatment of COVID-19 disease during their residency in the Sultanate,” the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism said in a statement.
However, before departing for Oman, tourists must register for a coronavirus polymerase test which they are required to take upon arrival to the Sultanate’s airports.
The registration must be submitted on emushrif.om.covid19, and the Tarassud Plus program of the Ministry of Health must be downloaded, the statement said.
“As for those coming through the land ports, they are required to present a medical certificate of a negative PCR result that is reported for a period not exceeding 72 hours before entering the Sultanate due to the lack of the required medical examination at the land ports at the current period,” it added.
Tourists’ residency period in the country must not exceed two weeks and they must follow the rules of their place of residence and are not allowed to share rooms or mix until their test results come out, the report said.
The statement also said: "Tourist groups were also excluded from the requirement of the decision to gather in tourist sites for no more than 5 people from the same family while adhering to the health condition of COVID-19.”
Meanwhile, Oman will exempt nationals of 103 counties from needing an entry visa for a stay of up to 10 days, police said on Wednesday, in a move to support tourism and shore up its struggling economy.
Visitors must have a confirmed hotel reservation, health insurance and a return ticket, Royal Oman Police said on its Twitter account.