UN: Arbitrary detentions in Syria conflict may be war crimes

UN: Arbitrary detentions in Syria conflict may be war crimes
In this file photo taken on February 15, 2019, Syrian men help a wounded woman covered in dust following a strike in the town of Khan Shaykhun in the southern countryside of the rebel-held Idlib province. (AFP)
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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.


Egypt to receive 854,000 COVID-19 vaccines, allows prayers in authorized mosques during Ramadan

Egypt to receive 854,000 COVID-19 vaccines, allows prayers in authorized mosques during Ramadan
Updated 31 March 2021

Egypt to receive 854,000 COVID-19 vaccines, allows prayers in authorized mosques during Ramadan

Egypt to receive 854,000 COVID-19 vaccines, allows prayers in authorized mosques during Ramadan
  • The health ministry has recorded a total 200,739 coronavirus cases since start of outbreak

RIYADH: Egypt would be receiving 854,000 COVID-19 vaccines via the COVAX vaccine-sharing program starting Wednesday, a report from local daily Ahram quoting health officials.

About 50,000 doses of AstraZeneca were shipped to Egypt in January and 600,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine in the past few weeks.

The health ministry has recorded a total 200,739 coronavirus cases, including 153,630 recoveries and 11,914 deaths, since the outbreak started.

With the holy month of Ramadan expected to start on April 13, Taraweeh or nightly prayers have been allowed in authorized mosques as long as COVID-19 precautionary measures were implemented, although prayers should not exceed half an hour.

The ban on huge assemblies in mosques and charity banquets in streets remains in place but some sports events for students however have been allowed.


Yemen’s government: Houthis are working with Al-Qaeda and Daesh

Yemen’s government: Houthis are working with Al-Qaeda and Daesh
Updated 31 March 2021

Yemen’s government: Houthis are working with Al-Qaeda and Daesh

Yemen’s government: Houthis are working with Al-Qaeda and Daesh

DUBAI: The Yemeni government has submitted a memorandum to the United Nations Security Council which said Houthis are working with Al-Qaeda and Daesh, Al-Arabiya TV reported.
The government said the militia have freed 252 Al-Qaeda prisoners, including one of the people behind the USS Cole bombing in 2000, the report added.
Al-Qaeda has evacuated some areas and handed them to the Houthis and they have 55 members fighting along the militia’s ranks, Al-Arabiya quoted the Yemeni government.


UAE’s finance minister Hamdan bin Rashid passes away aged 75

UAE’s finance minister Hamdan bin Rashid passes away aged 75
Updated 24 March 2021

UAE’s finance minister Hamdan bin Rashid passes away aged 75

UAE’s finance minister Hamdan bin Rashid passes away aged 75
  • Saudi Arabia's king and crown prince offered their condolences to the UAE's president and ruler of Dubai

DUBAI: Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Minister of Finance and Deputy Ruler of Dubai, has passed away aged 75. 
Sheikh Hamdan is the brother of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.  
The Dubai ruler posted a picture of Sheikh Hamdan on Twitter, adding: “We belong to God and to Him we shall return…May God have mercy on you, my brother, my support and my companion.”
Following the announcement, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent cables of condolences to Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, president of the UAE, Saudi Press Agency reported.
“We learned about the news of the death of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and we send to Your Highness, the family of the deceased, and the people of the UAE, our deepest condolences and sincere sympathies,” the cables said.
The Saudi leaders also sent similar cables of condolences to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid.
For 50 years, Sheikh Hamdan has held the position of Minister of Finance in the UAE since the formation of its first government following the declaration of the federation in 1971.
He led Emirati delegations to the International Monetary Fund and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Fund for international development. 


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.