Afghan rights body urges Iran to punish culprits in migrants’ drowning

An Afghan policeman stands guard in Kabul, Afghanistan, on June 2, 2020. (AP)
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Updated 04 June 2020

Afghan rights body urges Iran to punish culprits in migrants’ drowning

  • Last week, Iran sent a diplomatic team to Kabul, where they finally agreed to investigate and share their findings with Afghanistan

KABUL: The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) on Wednesday urged Iran to identify and punish those border guards who coerced a group of Afghan migrants to cross a river at gunpoint, resulting in a number of them allegedly drowning.

“The government of Iran needs to identify the perpetrators of this human rights violation as soon as possible and ensure justice,” AIHRC spokesman Zabihullah Farhang told Arab News.

He said the AIHRC wants the UN to “supervise the investigation,” and Kabul to “enter into discussions with the government of Iran for paying compensation to those affected.”

The May 1 incident, involving 46 migrants, angered Kabul and sparked fresh tensions between the two historically uneasy neighbors.

Last week, Iran sent a diplomatic team to Kabul, where they finally agreed to investigate and share their findings with Afghanistan.

The AIHRC began its investigation days after Kabul said in its probe that the migrants, who had crossed illegally into Iran for work, were detained by Iranian border guards, beaten and forced at gunpoint to cross the Harirud River, which forms the border between the two nations.

The migrants “were subjected to inhumane treatment by the Iranian border guards,” said the AIHRC.

Most of the victims were from the western Herat province, which lies near the border with Iran.

According to the AIHRC’s findings, based on accounts of two separate groups of people, up to 27 migrants had drowned, but it said it could not verify the claim.

The AIHRC, which was created in a UN-sponsored move in 2002, said its observers interviewed local officials, survivors, members of civil society, and next of kin of those affected.

It added that the investigation had documented and followed up “the brutal incidents from the very beginning, and has tried to obtain accurate information from various sources.”

Afghan government officials had no immediate comment about the AIHRC report, saying Kabul is waiting for Iran’s investigative team to submit its findings.

In recent years, Iran and Afghanistan have had an uneasy relationship, with Kabul accusing Tehran of using Afghan Shiite migrants to fight its proxy wars in the Middle East, as well as providing cash and arms to Taliban insurgents fighting the Afghan government and US-led troops.

“Kabul is under public pressure, but … since it’s a weak government, it can’t push Iran much on the issue except by following it through diplomatic channels,” Afghan analyst Shafiq Haqpal told Arab News.


Duterte to skip Philippine trial of Russia virus vaccine

Updated 13 August 2020

Duterte to skip Philippine trial of Russia virus vaccine

  • Duterte had offered himself up as a guinea pig for the very first jab, expressing “huge trust” in the vaccine
  • The Philippines has logged the highest number of confirmed infections in Southeast Asia

MANILA: The Philippines will begin large-scale human testing of Russia’s coronavirus vaccine in October, but President Rodrigo Duterte will not receive the inoculation until regulators guarantee its safety, his spokesman said Thursday.
Duterte had offered himself up as a guinea pig for the very first jab, expressing “huge trust” in the vaccine, despite growing skepticism about its effectiveness.
But his spokesman Harry Roque said the president was scheduled to receive the vaccine no earlier than May 1 — weeks after the Russian-funded Phase 3 clinical trial in the archipelago is due to end in March.
The country’s Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve the vaccine — developed by the Gamaleya research institute and the Russian defense ministry — in April.
“May 1 is when the PSG (presidential security group) may allow him, once all requisite tests have been finished,” Roque told reporters.
Moscow says it has developed the world’s first vaccine offering “sustainable immunity” against the coronavirus and is in the final stage of tests involving 2,000 people.
Roque said Philippine experts will review next month the results of Russia’s Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials before the Southeast Asian country starts its Phase 3 testing.
“We will do it simultaneously with Russia,” Roque said.
Philippine officials from the science and technology department met with Gamaleya on Wednesday to discuss the protocols for the trial of the vaccine, which is dubbed “Sputnik V” after the pioneering Soviet satellite of the 1950s.
The Philippines, which is struggling to contain the virus, has accepted Russia’s offer to participate in production of the vaccine.
Anna Lisa Ong-Lim, an infectious disease professor at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine, said the government’s timeline to have a vaccine available by May was “very optimistic.”
The country is also set to start on August 17 clinical trials for the Japanese antiviral drug Avigan to treat coronavirus patients.
The Philippines has logged the highest number of confirmed infections in Southeast Asia with more than 147,500 cases and over 2,400 deaths.