WHO faces investigation into virus response after Trump’s ultimatum

US President Donald Trump threatened to pull the US out of the WHO, accusing it of botching the global coronavirus response. (AP)
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Updated 20 May 2020

WHO faces investigation into virus response after Trump’s ultimatum

  • Number of recovered patients in KSA rises to 31,634
  • Death toll reaches 329 with nine new fatalities

JEDDAH: World Health Organization member states agreed on Tuesday to an independent probe into the UN agency’s coronavirus response as US criticism mounted over its handling of the pandemic.

They also agreed to push for equitable access for any treatments or vaccines developed against COVID-19, and urged an international probe into the origins of the new virus.

Countries taking part in the WHO’s annual assembly, being held virtually for the first time, adopted a resolution by consensus urging a joint response to the crisis.

The resolution, tabled by the EU, called for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the international response to the pandemic.

It said the investigation should include a probe of “the actions of WHO and their time-lines pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The decision came after Washington chastised the WHO at the assembly and lashed out further against China over its role in the outbreak.

US President Donald Trump threatened to pull the US out of the WHO, accusing it of botching the global coronavirus response and of being a “puppet of China.” Making himself an example for using a malaria drug against the coronavirus, Trump sent the White House scrambling to defend his decision amid medical concerns the unproven treatment could spark misuse of a medication with fatal side effects.

Trump’s announcement that he was taking the drug, hydroxychloroquine, caught many in his administration by surprise and set off an urgent effort by officials to justify his action. 

Britain’s official death toll is at least 41,000 with almost 10,000 dead in care homes in England and Wales alone.

With hundreds of deaths still being reported each day, the current toll, already the highest in Europe and second only to the US in the global rankings, is likely to be even higher.

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday recorded a rise in the number of patients who have recovered to 31,634, up from 28,748 recorded a day earlier.

Total recoveries have surpassed the number of active cases, which stands at 27,891. Of the total cases, 251 are in critical condition.

The total number of people who have contracted the virus is 59,854. 

With nine more fatalities, the death toll has jumped to 329. The latest fatalities were reported in Makkah, Riyadh and Dammam among people aged 42 to 74 suffering from chronic illnesses.

Worldwide cases have passed 4.95 million, recoveries 1.93 million and the death toll has crossed 323,193.


Britain’s Iraq war crimes probe dismisses thousands of complaints

Updated 39 min 7 sec ago

Britain’s Iraq war crimes probe dismisses thousands of complaints

  • Former lawyer Phil Shiner and a team in Berlin drew on the accounts of more than 400 Iraqis who allegedly witnessed or experienced crimes

LONDON: An independent British investigator looking into allegations that UK soldiers committed war crimes in Iraq between 2003 and 2009 said Tuesday that all but one of the thousands of complaints have been dropped.
The Service Prosecuting Authority director Andrew Cayley told BBC radio that it was “quite possible” that none of the original allegations will lead to a prosecution.
Cayley did not provide details of the allegation in the last remaining case.
British combat troops fought alongside other coalition forces in an effort to quell an Islamic insurgency that followed the 2003 US invasion and subsequent fall and execution of dictator Saddam Hussein.
Former lawyer Phil Shiner and a team in Berlin drew on the accounts of more than 400 Iraqis who allegedly witnessed or experienced crimes ranging from rape and torture to mock executions and other atrocities.
A UK tribunal struck off Shiner after finding him guilty of misconduct and dishonesty in connection with the allegations in 2017.
Cayley told the BBC that it was likely that no action would be taken in a separate International Criminal Court (ICC) probe.
“My sense is these matters are coming to a conclusion,” he said.
A lawyer representing some of the soldiers accused by Shiner called for a public apology over the “vile war crime slurs.”
“At long last, this witch hunt is coming to an end,” lawyer Hilary Meredith said.
The UK Defense Ministry said in 2012 that it had paid £15.1 million ($19 million, 17 million euros) to more than 200 Iraqis who had accused British troops of illegal detention and torture.