Yemen urges probe into fatal Sanaa migrant detention fire

The narrow waters between the Horn of Africa and Yemen have been a popular migration route despite Yemen's ongoing conflict. (AFP/File)
The narrow waters between the Horn of Africa and Yemen have been a popular migration route despite Yemen's ongoing conflict. (AFP/File)
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Updated 10 March 2021

Yemen urges probe into fatal Sanaa migrant detention fire

Yemen urges probe into fatal Sanaa migrant detention fire
  • Local Yemeni media reports and government officials said that “several hundreds” were killed or wounded
  • The fire on Sunday occurred in a detention center in Sanaa

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s government and human rights activists have called for the formation of an international inquiry to examine the death of dozens of African migrants inside a detention camp in Houthi-controlled Sanaa on Sunday.

The Yemeni government has accused the Houthis of recruiting detained migrants to fight in the civil war. The migrants were said to have burned to death in a fire after  protesting against mistreatment and poor conditions inside a detention facility.

“We strongly condemn the horrific crime committed in migrant detentions run by the terrorist Houthi militia in the seized capital, Sanaa, which led to the death and injury of hundreds of them, who were buried in a mass grave — a Houthi attempts to cover up the crime,” Yemen’s Information Minister Muammer Al-Aryani said.

He added: “We call for a transparent and independent international investigation to reveal details of the crime and hold the perpetrators to account, pressure Houthis to stop recruiting and exploiting refugees in combat, release all detainees in respect of Yemen's obligations and ensure freedom of movement or voluntary return.”

The fire on Sunday occurred in a detention center in Sanaa, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

“The total number of migrants who died in the fire at the Immigration, Passports and Naturalization Authority Immigration Holding Facility remains unconfirmed, as official records have yet to be released. More than 170 people have been treated for injuries, with many in critical condition,” the IOM said in a statement seen by Arab News.

Local Yemeni media reports and government officials said that “several hundreds” were killed or wounded in the blaze and that Houthi rebels had suppressed information about the incident in order to avoid an international backlash.

Majed Fadhail, deputy minister of human rights, told Arab News that “up to 500 migrants” were killed or injured in the fire. Quoting local medical sources, the Yemeni news agency Yemen Press Network (Yazaan) reported that the number of deaths numbered 50, and that about 130 migrants, including dozens of critical cases, were injured.

The UN migration agency said that the cause of the fire was unclear. But an anonymous local source told Arab News that hundreds of migrants had staged a riot inside the overcrowded detention center to protest against mistreatment, long detention periods and poor conditions.

Migrants blocked doors with blankets and mattresses to prevent detention guards from entering rooms to suppress the riot,” the source said, adding that a guard threw an incendiary device inside the detention that ignited the blaze.

On Tuesday, the IOM warned that tightened security measures by Houthis had obstructed their teams from reaching the injured migrants, and demanded the rebels to allow medical access and release the remaining migrants.

“We are facing challenges accessing the injured due to an increased security presence in the hospitals. Humanitarian and health workers must be given access to support the treatment of those affected by the fire and others who have been receiving long-term care from IOM and partners,” said Carmela Godeau, IOM regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awadh bin Mubarak sent his condolences to the Ethiopian government over the death of Ethiopian citizens in the fire, and vowed to provide them with medical care and hold the perpetrators accountable.

“We affirm we’ll make every effort with the relevant international organizations to reach the survivors, provide them with the necessary care, uncover the circumstances of this traumatic incident — for which Houthis are responsible — and hold those in charge accountable,” he said on Twitter.

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Suspected Iranian nuclear production plant hit by drones, Tehran claims ‘sabotage attack’

Iran's southern Bushehr nuclear power plant has been temporarily shut down over a
Iran's southern Bushehr nuclear power plant has been temporarily shut down over a "technical fault" and will be reconnected to the grid and the issue will be resolved "in a few days", the country's atomic energy body said. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 1 min 35 sec ago

Suspected Iranian nuclear production plant hit by drones, Tehran claims ‘sabotage attack’

Iran's southern Bushehr nuclear power plant has been temporarily shut down over a "technical fault" and will be reconnected to the grid and the issue will be resolved "in a few days", the country's atomic energy body said. (AFP/File Photo)
  • There was no immediate comment or attribution of blame from either Israel or Iran

LONDON: A drone attack on a building in Iran, thought to be a nuclear facility, has caused considerable damage, it was claimed Thursday, despite Tehran stating on Wednesday it had foiled the “sabotage” attempt on the building.

At least one small rotor-powered drone hit a factory owned by the Iran Centrifuge Technology Co. in Karaj, according to a US intelligence tip off published by the New York Times.

The factory, just outside Tehran, is believed to produce aluminium blades for use in Iran’s two uranium enrichment facilities at Natanz and Fordow, UK paper The Times reported.

Israeli media also said the building had been hit in an attack, with some reports saying it had involved “several” drones.

There was no immediate comment or attribution of blame from either Israel or Iran.

The incident “left no casualties or damages and was unable to disrupt the Iranian nuclear program,” Iranian state television said, before adding that authorities were now working to identify the perpetrators.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN body that monitors Tehran’s nuclear program, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The factory was allegedly on a list of targets presented to the administration of former US President Donald Trump last year by Israel, which regards the Iranian nuclear program as a cover for developing nuclear warheads, a claim denied by Tehran.

The incident follows several sother uspected attacks targeting Iran’s nuclear program that have heightened regional tensions in recent months, amid diplomatic efforts to resurrect Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with world powers.

Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal in 2018 has seen Iran, over time, abandon all limitations on uranium enrichment. The country is now enriching uranium to 60 percent, its highest ever levels, although still short of those required to develop weapons. 

Iran has said that its nuclear ambitions are peaceful and that it will return to its commitments once the US lifts sanctions imposed after Trump withdrew from the JCPOA.

Earlier this week, Iran’s sole nuclear power plant at Bushehr underwent an unexplained temporary emergency shutdown. Authorities had warned earlier this year of the plant’s possible closure because of US sanctions that supposedly prevented Iran procuring equipment for repairs.

In April, Iran’s underground Natanz nuclear facility experienced a mysterious blackout that damaged some of its centrifuges. Last July, unexplained fires struck the advanced centrifuge assembly plant at Natanz, which authorities later also described as sabotage. Iran now is rebuilding that facility deep inside a nearby mountain.

* With AP


Iran now has ‘international criminal’ as president: Panel

Iran now has ‘international criminal’ as president: Panel
Updated 13 min 18 sec ago

Iran now has ‘international criminal’ as president: Panel

Iran now has ‘international criminal’ as president: Panel
  • Ex-UN appeal judge: Ebrahim Raisi ‘guilty of crimes against humanity’
  • ‘If ever he ventures out of Iran, any democratic country would be entitled to arrest him and put him on trial’

LONDON: Iran now has an “international criminal” as its president, according to a panel of experts who warned that this could mean he faces arrest if he leaves the country and may be unable to attend the UN.

At an event on Thursday hosted by the National Council of Resistance of Iran and attended by Arab News, a panel of diplomats and human rights experts said Ebrahim Raisi’s role in the 1988 massacres of political prisoners means he is guilty of crimes against humanity — a label that could seriously harm his global diplomatic standing.

“We now have an international criminal as president ... He’s guilty of crimes against humanity, committed in late 1988 by the slaughter of thousands of prisoners,” said Geoffrey Robertson, a former UN appeal judge and former president of the war crimes court in Sierra Leone.

Robertson, who has conducted an extensive investigation into the 1988 massacres, added that Raisi and his Justice Department henchmen sent prisoners to their deaths in “two waves.”

First killed, Robertson said, were members, allies and sympathizers of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), a political group that participated in the 1979 revolution but was later turned upon by the regime following a political disagreement.

“Most of them had actually already completed their sentences. They were executed without pity,” said Robertson.

“The second wave was of theocratic dissidents: Communists, atheists, left-wingers. They were executed for being opposed to the theocratic state of Ayatollah (Ruhollah) Khomeini. There we have a crime against humanity.”

Most of the people killed were detained for participating in protests in the early 1980s, said Robertson. They were then subjected to what Amnesty International has called “death commissions,” in which judiciary officials led by Raisi, who was then a prosecutor in Tehran, asked them apparently innocuous questions.

“They didn’t know it, but on their answers their lives depended,” said Robertson. Those who gave answers indicating an MEK or atheist affiliation were blindfolded and “ordered to join a conga line that led straight to the gallows,” he added.

“They were hung from cranes four at a time … Some were taken to army barracks at night, directed to make their wills and then shot by firing squad.”

Raisi’s direct involvement in these crimes could come back to bite Iran in an unexpected way, Robertson said.

“The UN will have to grapple with the fact that one of its members is led by an international criminal,” he added.

“If ever he ventures out of Iran, any democratic country would be entitled under its law — universal jurisdiction as we call it — to arrest him and put him on trial,” said Robertson

Nick Fluck, president emeritus of the law society of England and Wales, pointed out that Raisi has said in press conferences that he is “proud” of his role in the 1988 massacres.

This “serves as an important wakeup call that we can’t just sit silently on the sidelines. Silence and inaction don’t produce change, and in this case it’s clear that change is radically needed,” Fluck said.

“This is a leader who’ll be widely, I hope, shunned. There will be a lack of credibility about anything he may say.”

Fluck said Raisi’s domestic legitimacy is also seriously lacking, following an election that saw heavy state involvement, with hundreds of candidates barred from running and millions of Iranians boycotting the poll.

“Dissidents and reformists urged voters to boycott the poll. That’s perhaps why, although he inevitably won the election, he did so with a very low turnout,” Fluck added.


300 migrants may have died in recent capsizing of ship off Yemen coast: UN

A UN official said on Thursday that as many as 300 migrants may have died after a ship capsized recently off Yemen's Red Sea coast. (Shutterstock)
A UN official said on Thursday that as many as 300 migrants may have died after a ship capsized recently off Yemen's Red Sea coast. (Shutterstock)
Updated 24 June 2021

300 migrants may have died in recent capsizing of ship off Yemen coast: UN

A UN official said on Thursday that as many as 300 migrants may have died after a ship capsized recently off Yemen's Red Sea coast. (Shutterstock)

DUBAI: A UN official said on Thursday that as many as 300 migrants may have died after a ship capsized recently off Yemen's coast, highlighting the risks of a longstanding migration route from the Horn of Africa to Gulf states in search of work.

UN resident and humanitarian coordinator David Gressly said the migrants crisis is adding more pressure on an already dire humanitarian situation in Yemen.

A number of bodies washed up at Ras Al-Arah on Yemen’s Red Sea coast earlier this month after a migrant boat sank offshore.


Egypt to allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter without PCR test

Egypt to allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter without PCR test
Updated 24 June 2021

Egypt to allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter without PCR test

Egypt to allow fully vaccinated travelers to enter without PCR test
  • Travelers must present officially issued QR-coded certificates to prove they have received one of the six vaccines approved by the Egyptian Drug Authority and the WHO
  • Egypt lifted many restrictions at the beginning of June and hopes to see an upsurge in tourism this year, as that sector usually accounts for 15% of the country’s GDP

CAIRO: The Egyptian Ministry of Health announced on Thursday that the country will allow some foreign travelers who have received their full course of approved COVID-19 vaccines to enter without taking a PCR test.

Travelers must present officially issued QR-coded certificates to prove they have received one of the six vaccines approved by the Egyptian Drug Authority and the World Health Organization: Sputnik, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Sinopharm, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson (which only requires one dose).

In a statement to airports and ports, the ministry said that entry without a PCR test will be granted to those who received their second jab more than 14 days before traveling.

However, travelers from high-risk countries including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Brazil, will have to take an ID NOW COVID-19 test on arrival, regardless of their vaccination status. If the result of that test is positive, a PCR test will be performed. If that test is also positive, the passenger will be transferred to a designated hospital to quarantine.

On Thursday, Egypt reported 466 new COVID-19 cases, bringing its total since the pandemic began to 278,761.

Egypt lifted many restrictions at the beginning of June and hopes to see an upsurge in tourism this year, as that sector usually accounts for 15 percent of the country’s GDP.


Egypt retrieves 114 smuggled antiquities from France

Egypt retrieves 114 smuggled antiquities from France
Updated 24 June 2021

Egypt retrieves 114 smuggled antiquities from France

Egypt retrieves 114 smuggled antiquities from France
  • Antiquities retrieved following joint investigations by the Egyptian Public Prosecution office and French judicial authorities
  • Alaa Yousef, Egypt’s ambassador to France, praised the collaboration, describing it as an achievement that added to the record of Egyptian-French bilateral relations

CAIRO: Egyptian officials have retrieved 114 looted antiquities smuggled to France following joint investigations by the Egyptian Public Prosecution office and French judicial authorities.

Heading a high-level delegation, Hamada Al-Sawy, Egypt’s public prosecutor, arrived in Paris on Tuesday and visited the Egyptian Embassy, along with Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, to resume the retrieval process and halt any attempts to sell the artefacts.

The officials took inventory of the recovered items in preparation for the transfer to Cairo, the Egyptian prosecution said on Wednesday.

The pieces were transferred to the embassy and unpacked with the help of the French Interior Ministry.

Al-Sawy said the public prosecution office is following a plan within the framework of Egypt’s strategy to recover its smuggled antiquities and preserve their history.

He highlighted the need for Cairo and Paris to exchange information on criminal investigation techniques and new technologies in fighting crime.

Al-Sawy also detailed the effective cooperation between all stakeholders in combating organized and transnational crimes, terrorism, money laundering, antiquities smuggling, human trafficking and violence against women.

Alaa Yousef, Egypt’s ambassador to France, praised the collaboration, describing it as an achievement that added to the record of Egyptian-French bilateral relations.

Both countries’ relations have strengthened in several areas over recent years, he added.