UN tribunal for Lebanon runs out of funds as Beirut’s crisis spills over

UN tribunal for Lebanon runs out of funds as Beirut’s crisis spills over
Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri and his aunt Bahiya al-Hariri pray at Rafik Hariri’s grave on his assassination’s 16th anniversary. UN tribunal for Lebanon has run out of funds amid Lebanon’s crisis. (Reuters)
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Updated 25 May 2021

UN tribunal for Lebanon runs out of funds as Beirut’s crisis spills over

UN tribunal for Lebanon runs out of funds as Beirut’s crisis spills over
  • Closing the tribunal would dash the hopes of families of victims in the Hariri murder
  • A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General said Tuesday he was aware of the court's financial problems

THE HAGUE: A UN tribunal set up to prosecute those behind Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri’s 2005 assassination has run out of funding amid Lebanon’s economic and political crisis.
The country’s crisis is threatening plans for future trials, people involved in the process said.
Closing the tribunal would dash the hopes of families of victims in the Hariri murder and other attacks, but also those demanding that a UN tribunal bring to justice those responsible for the Beirut port blast last August that killed 200 and injured 6,500.
Last year the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon, located outside of The Hague, convicted former Hezbollah member Salim Jamil Ayyash for the bombing that killed Hariri and 21 others.
Ayyash was sentenced in absentia to five life terms in prison, while three alleged accomplices were acquitted due to insufficient evidence... Both sides have appealed.
The court had been scheduled to start a second trial on June 16 against Ayyash, who is accused of another assassination and attacks against Lebanese politicians in 2004 and 2005 in the run-up to the Hariri bombing.
A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said he was aware of the court’s financial problems.
“The Secretary-General continues to urge member states and the international community for voluntary contributions in order to secure the funds required to support the independent judicial proceedings that remain before the tribunal,” UN Deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.
The funding shortfall comes as Lebanon faces its worst turmoil since Hariri’s assassination. The country is deeply polarized between supporters of Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah and its allies and supporters of Hariri’s son, prime minister designate Saad Al-Hariri, who declined to comment.
“If you abort the tribunal, if you abort this case, you are giving a free gift to the perpetrators and to those who do not want justice to take place,” Nidal Jurdi, a lawyer for the victims in the second case, told Reuters.
Scrapping a new trial would not only harm victims who waited 17 years for the case to come to court, but would undermine accountability for crimes in Lebanon in general, Jurdi said, adding that a letter had been sent to the UN expressing concern.
It would be “a disappointment for the victims of the connected cases and the victims of Lebanon,” he said, appealing for international funding.
“Lebanon needs full accountability,” he said.
Created by a 2007 UN Security Council resolution and opened in 2009, the tribunal’s budget last year was 55 million euros ($67 million) with Lebanon footing 49 percent of the bill and foreign donors and the UN members making up the rest.
“The Special Tribunal for Lebanon is in a very concerning financial position,” court spokeswoman Wajed Ramadan told Reuters. “No decision has yet been taken on judicial proceedings and there are intense fundraising efforts going on to find a solution,” she added.
The UN extended the mandate of the tribunal from March 1, 2021, for two years or sooner if the remaining cases were completed or funding ran out.
Guterres warned in February that due to the financial crisis in Lebanon, the government’s contribution was uncertain and warned the court may not be able to continue its work after the first quarter of 2021.
The 2021 budget had been trimmed by nearly 40 percent, forcing job cuts at the court, but the Lebanese government has still been unable to pay its share, according to UN documents.
Guterres requested an appropriation of about $25 million from the UN General Assembly for 2021. The General Assembly approved $15.5 million in March.


Dutch court to rule on Palestinian’s case against Israeli defense minister

Dutch court to rule on Palestinian’s case against Israeli defense minister
Updated 1 min 6 sec ago

Dutch court to rule on Palestinian’s case against Israeli defense minister

Dutch court to rule on Palestinian’s case against Israeli defense minister
  • Universal jurisdiction allows countries to prosecute serious offences such as war crimes and torture no matter where they were committed

THE HAGUE: An appeals court in the Netherlands rules on Tuesday in a case alleging war crimes against Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, who is blamed by a Dutch Palestinian for the loss of six relatives in an Israeli air strike on Gaza in 2014.
Ismail Ziada filed the civil case against Gantz and another former senior Israeli military official, seeking unspecified damages under Dutch universal jurisdiction rules. His case was thrown out by a lower Dutch court in January 2020.
Universal jurisdiction allows countries to prosecute serious offences such as war crimes and torture no matter where they were committed.
But the lower court ruled that the principles of universal jurisdiction could be applied for individual criminal responsibility, but not in civil cases.
Ziada appealed, arguing that universal jurisdiction should be applied in civil cases if the alleged conduct involved serious violations of international humanitarian law. He asked the appeals judges to reverse the decision, which effectively granted Gantz immunity from prosecution.
Gantz, a career soldier turned politician, was commander-in-chief of the Israeli armed forces during a war against Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip in 2014, when the incident took place.
About 2,200 Palestinians are estimated to have been killed, up to 1,500 of them civilians, in the conflict, according to U.N. figures. Ziada said he lost relatives when his family home in Gaza was bombed during a June 2014 Israeli air strike. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and five civilians were killed.
Gaza is controlled by the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement, regarded by the West as a terrorist organization. Israel says Hamas puts civilians in harm's way by deploying fighters and weaponry inside densely populated areas of Gaza.
Human rights groups have accused both sides of war crimes in the 2014 conflict. The International Criminal Court (ICC) is currently investigating alleged war crimes committed on Palestinian territory since June 2014 by both Israeli defense forces and Palestinian armed groups.


Israel targets Syria’s port city of Latakia - state tv

Israel targets Syria’s port city of Latakia - state tv
Updated 11 min 55 sec ago

Israel targets Syria’s port city of Latakia - state tv

Israel targets Syria’s port city of Latakia - state tv

Several explosions heard in Syria's port city of Latakia, according to media.

-- more to follow..

 

 


Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli guard

Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli guard
Updated 07 December 2021

Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli guard

Palestinian teenager shot dead by Israeli guard

RAMALLAH: A Palestinian teenager who drove his car into an Israeli security checkpoint in the occupied West Bank was shot dead on Monday by a security guard at the scene, officials said.

The car-ramming occurred after 1 a.m. at the Te’enim checkpoint near the Palestinian city of Tulkarem, an Israeli Defense Ministry statement said, adding that the assailant had been “neutralized.”

It was not immediately clear if the alleged attacker was killed, but the official Palestinian news agency Wafa later reported that 15-year-old Mohammed Nidal Yunes died from injuries after being fired on at a checkpoint.

An Israeli security official confirmed to AFP that the driver of the vehicle was killed.

The Defense Ministry said that a security guard was “seriously injured” in the attack.

Israel’s Sheba Hospital said the guard’s injuries were not life threatening.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 and the Palestinian territory is now home to roughly 475,000 Jewish settlers living in communities widely considered illegal under international law.

Attacks on checkpoints are common, often carried out by individual Palestinians armed with knives, as well as attempted car-rammings and occasional shootings.

Monday’s incident came after a Palestinian assailant stabbed an Israeli civilian and attempted to attack police on Saturday near the Damascus Gate entry to the Old City in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.

The assailant was shot dead by officers who appeared to fire on the suspect after he was on the ground, stirring debate about excessive force.

Israeli authorities have insisted the officers acted appropriately.

BACKGROUND

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 and the Palestinian territory is now home to roughly 475,000 Jewish settlers living in communities widely considered illegal under international law.

On Sunday, Israeli authorities freed a prominent Palestinian prisoner, two weeks after striking a release deal that ended his marathon 131-day hunger strike.

Kayed Fasfous, 32, had remained in an Israeli hospital since ending his strike on Nov. 23.

He was the symbolic figurehead of six hunger strikers protesting Israel’s controversial policy of “administrative detention,” which allows suspects to be held indefinitely without charge.

Israel claims the policy is necessary to keep dangerous suspects locked away without disclosing sensitive information that could expose valuable sources.

Palestinians and rights groups say the practice denies the right of due process, allowing Israel to hold prisoners for months or even years without seeing the evidence against them.  The law is rarely applied to Israelis.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club, a group representing former and current prisoners, confirmed Fasfous had returned home to the occupied West Bank through a military checkpoint near the southern city of Hebron on Sunday afternoon.

Online footage showed the former prisoner in a wheelchair celebrating his return to his southern hometown of Dura before being taken to a hospital in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The plight of the six hunger strikers ignited solidarity demonstrations across the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza in November mounting pressure on Israel to release the detainees.

At least four of the five other hunger strikers have since ended their protests after reaching similar deals with Israeli authorities. They are expected to be released in the coming months.

Hunger strikes are common among Palestinian prisoners and have helped secure numerous concessions from Israeli authorities.

The nature of these strikes vary from individuals protesting detention without charge to groups calling for improved cell conditions.

Around 500 of the 4,600 Palestinians detained by Israel are held in administrative detention according to Addameer, a Palestinian prisoner rights group.


Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga retake northern village from Daesh

Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga  retake northern village from Daesh
Updated 07 December 2021

Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga retake northern village from Daesh

Iraqi forces, Kurdish Peshmerga  retake northern village from Daesh
  • More reinforcement forces dispatched to the area to prevent further attacks

BAGHDAD: Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters have recaptured a village in northern Iraq on Monday after Daesh terrorists took it over the previous day, security and police sources said.

Elite Iraq Interior Ministry forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters managed early on Monday to control Luhaiban village, though the terrorists have left some houses booby-trapped with explosive devices, the sources said.

In a separate attack on Sunday, Daesh killed four Peshmerga soldiers and a civilian, and wounded six other people when they attacked Qara Salem village in northern Iraq, security sources said.

The Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs said in a statement that the attack caused casualties, but did not confirm the toll.

Peshmerga are the military forces of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.

One Peshmerga colonel said Daesh was using hit-and-run tactics in night attacks on their positions.

FASTFACT

Daesh killed four Peshmerga soldiers and a civilian, and wounded six other people when they attacked Qara Salem village in northern Iraq, security sources said.

“They avoid holding the ground for longer time ... More reinforcement forces were dispatched to the area to prevent further attacks,” the colonel said.

Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga fighters reinforced their troops in the area on Monday where the attacks had been carried out by militant group with Iraqi military helicopters flying over to chase militants, two Iraqi security sources said.

The two villages are in remote territory claimed by the Iraqi government in Baghdad and the government of the autonomous northern Kurdish region in Irbil where there are regular attacks by Daesh.

But it is a rare incident of Daesh controlling a residential area near a main road, a highway that links Irbil to the city of Kirkuk.

Iraq declared victory over the hard-line group in December 2017.

Although the group has largely been defeated, it continues to carry out sporadic attacks and operate limited cells in the country, particularly in the north.


Israel stops plan for contentious east Jerusalem settlement

Israel stops plan for contentious east Jerusalem settlement
Updated 07 December 2021

Israel stops plan for contentious east Jerusalem settlement

Israel stops plan for contentious east Jerusalem settlement
  • The decision to halt the Atarot settlement plan came in the wake of heavy US opposition to the project
  • Plans for the Atarot settlement called for building 9,000 housing units marketed to ultra-Orthodox Jews

JERUSALEM: Jerusalem municipal officials on Monday froze plans to build a contentious large Jewish settlement at an abandoned airport in east Jerusalem.
The decision to halt the Atarot settlement plan came in the wake of heavy US opposition to the project.
Plans for the settlement called for building 9,000 housing units marketed to ultra-Orthodox Jews in an open area next to three densely populated Palestinian communities, one of which is behind Israel’s controversial separation barrier.
The municipality’s planning commission said that it had been favorably impressed with the plan but that an environmental impact survey should first be conducted before it could be approved.
Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, a deputy mayor, said the process is expected to take about a year.
The anti-settlement group Peace Now had waged a public campaign against the plan, citing the proposed settlement’s problematic location.
“Let’s hope they will use the time to understand how illogical this plan is for the development of Jerusalem and how much it damages the chances for peace,” said Hagit Ofran, a Peace Now researcher who attended the meeting.
Earlier on Monday, Israel’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid, indicated the Israeli government was in no hurry to approve the plan.
Speaking to reporters, Lapid said the plan ultimately requires approval by the national government, with “full consensus” of the various parties in the coalition.
“This will be dealt with at the national level and we know how to deal with it. It is a process and will make sure it doesn’t turn into a conflict with the (US) administration,” he said.
Israel captured east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally. The Palestinians want east Jerusalem to be the capital of a future state including the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which Israel also seized in that war.
Israel views all of Jerusalem as its unified capital and says it needs to build housing to address the needs of a growing population.
The Palestinians view the continual expansion of Israeli settlements as a violation of international law and an obstacle to peace, a position with wide international support. The Atarot project is considered especially damaging because it lies in the heart of a Palestinian population center.
The Biden administration has repeatedly criticized settlement construction, saying it hinders the eventual resumption of the peace process, but Israel has continued to advance settlement plans.
More than 200,000 Israeli settlers live in east Jerusalem and nearly 500,000 live in settlements scattered across the occupied West Bank. Israel’s current prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is a strong supporter of settlements and is opposed to Palestinian statehood.
There have been no substantive peace talks in more than a decade.