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.

US ‘cloud’ supremacy has Europe worried about data

Updated 8 min 14 sec ago

US ‘cloud’ supremacy has Europe worried about data

PARIS: Europe is sitting on a wealth of data that is the 21st century equivalent of a precious metal mine during the gold rush.
But instead of exploiting it themselves Europeans may be allowing American tech giants to gain control of all the excavation equipment, some experts say, pointing to a flurry of European companies announcing deals with US tech players for cloud services.
Renault, Orange, Deutsche Bank, and Lufthansa recently plumped for Google Cloud. Volkswagen signed up with Amazon Web Services. The French health ministry chose Microsoft to house its research data.
The cloud is a term for offering data storage and processing services externally so clients don’t need to invest as much in costly gear.
This trend has sparked concern particularly in Germany, which has a rich trove of data thanks to its powerful industrial sector.
The EU is “losing its influence in the digital sphere at the moment it is taking a central role in the continent’s economy” warned a recent report by a group of experts and media leaders under the leadership of the former head of German software firm SAP, Henning Kagermann.
“The majority of European data is stocked outside of Europe, or, if stocked in Europe, is on servers that belong to non-European firms,” it noted.

A senior French official recently delivered an even more blunt assessment in a meeting with IT professionals.
“We have an enormous security and sovereignty issue with clouds” said the official at the meeting, which AFP attended on the condition of respecting the anonymity of participants.
“In many cases it is convenience or a sellout” by European companies and institutions “because it is simpler” to sign up with US tech giants than find European options, said the official.
“However we have very good firms offering cloud and data services,” he added.
One of the causes of concern for Europeans comes from the Cloud Act, a piece of legislation adopted in 2018 that gives US intelligence agencies access in certain cases to data hosted by US firms, no matter where the server may be physically located.
“My company is American and I know very well what the implications are of the legislation,” said a Franco-American executive.
“And given what is happening in US policy debates, that situation won’t be getting better.”
Beyond the integrity of data, it is the capacity to analyze and exploit that information that worries many European experts and policymakers.

If in Europe “we are just capable of generating data and need others to exploit it then we are going to end up in the same situation as countries with mineral resources that rely on others to process it and end up with meagre economic benefits,” said the French official.
The French and Germans unveiled in June the GAIA-X project that aims to develop a competitive European cloud offer.
Rather than encourage the development of a European champion — in the mold of Airbus in response to Boeing — that would offer the full gamut of services, the project takes a different tack.
It aims to set standards so different firms could offer storage, processing, security and artificial intelligence services seamlessly. It would operate as a marketplace of sorts where each client could find the services they need without having to leave European jurisdiction.
It is hoped GAIA-X’s decentralized model might prove a better fit with the issues raised by treatment of data from connected devices.