Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte opposes full disclosure of deadly drug raid details

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte opposes full disclosure of deadly drug raid details
More than 6,000 mostly petty drug suspects have been killed and 289,000 others arrested since D President Rodrigo Duterte launched his massive campaign against illegal drugs after taking office in mid-2016. (AFP)
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Updated 01 June 2021

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte opposes full disclosure of deadly drug raid details

Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte opposes full disclosure of deadly drug raid details
  • Divulging confidential information could undermine his administration’s campaign against criminality

MANILA: The Philippine president has rejected full public disclosure of details of his administration’s deadly anti-drug crackdown, citing national security.
President Rodrigo Duterte said in televised remarks Monday night that divulging confidential information like intelligence about suspects used by law enforcers for drug raids could undermine his administration’s campaign against criminality. Duterte has long faced demands from human rights groups to open up police records about the drug killings for scrutiny and for him to agree to an international investigation, a call he has steadfastly rejected.
Duterte compared the anti-drug crackdown to the government’s war against communist New People’s Army guerrillas.
“This is a national security issue like the NPA,” he said.
Duterte said people could inquire about general details of how drug raids were carried out and could even observe them from a safe distance. “But if you ask what prompted the police and the military to go into this kind of operation based on their reports and collated dossiers, you cannot intrude into that,” he said, adding that he himself has limited knowledge of the drug operations.
More than 6,000 mostly petty drug suspects have been killed and 289,000 others arrested since Duterte launched his massive campaign against illegal drugs after taking office in mid-2016, according to official statistics, which human rights groups suspect are vastly understated. The large number of killings has alarmed Western governments and human rights watchdogs and sparked an International Criminal Court examination of complaints of potential crimes against humanity.
Last week, the Department of Justice said it has been given access to a few dozen police investigations of police officers involved in anti-drug raids that turned deadly. Duterte’s officials have argued that the country’s justice system could address complaints of extrajudicial killings by law enforcers and that there is no need for international criminal inquiries.
“There are public documents that can be shown to the public at large,” Duterte said, adding that confidential papers would be kept from the public.
The Supreme Court said in a 2018 resolution that details surrounding police operations against illegal drugs do not normally “involve state secrets affecting national security” like those dealing with “rebellion, invasion, terrorism, espionage, infringement of our sovereignty or sovereign rights by foreign powers.”
The court said it has a mandate to safeguard the people’s constitutional right to information on pressing issues. “The undeniable fact that thousands of ordinary citizens have been killed, and continue to be killed, during police drug operations certainly is a matter of grave public concern,” the court said.
Duterte acknowledged that the anti-drug crackdown has left many dead and warned that “many more will die.” But he repeated that there was no government policy condoning extrajudicial killings and added that some of the killings of drug dealers were carried out by syndicates to eliminate potential government informants.
“My policemen and my army are trained to kill,” he said, but added, “they are not allowed to kill a man kneeling down or with his back turned.”
The tough-talking leader repeated his death threats to drug lords preying on young Filipinos. “If I am there, I will really kill you. I don’t care if there’s TV around. I will really kill you,” he said.
Rights groups have warned that such remarks by the president have fostered a culture of impunity in the police force, which Duterte once called “corrupt to the core,” and have emboldened law enforcers to commit abuses.


UN headquarters attacked in western Afghanistan, at least one guard killed

UN headquarters attacked in western Afghanistan, at least one guard killed
Updated 30 July 2021

UN headquarters attacked in western Afghanistan, at least one guard killed

UN headquarters attacked in western Afghanistan, at least one guard killed

KABUL: The United Nations said on Friday that its main compound in western Afghanistan was attacked by "anti-government elements", killing at least one Afghan police guard and other officers injured.
"The area around Herat where the compound is located witnessed fighting today between the Taliban and government forces," a statement by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said. It added the UN is urgently seeking to establish a full picture about the attack and is in contact with the relevant parties.
It was not immediately clear who attacked the compound. 


Germany signals growing impatience with Iran on nuclear deal

Germany signals growing impatience with Iran on nuclear deal
Updated 30 July 2021

Germany signals growing impatience with Iran on nuclear deal

Germany signals growing impatience with Iran on nuclear deal
  • The last round of talks ended in Vienna on June 20 and no date has been set for a new meeting

BERLIN: Germany’s foreign minister is signaling growing impatience with Iran, saying that a revival of the country’s frayed nuclear accord with world powers won’t be possible “forever,” a German magazine reported Friday.
The countries that remain parties to the agreement — Russia, China, Germany, France, Britain and Iran — have been trying during six rounds of talks in Vienna to resolve how the United States can rejoin and how Tehran can return to compliance. President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in 2018, but successor Joe Biden has said the US wants to return.
The last round of talks ended in Vienna on June 20. No date has been set for a new meeting.
“I am seeing with growing unease that Iran is delaying the resumption of the Vienna nuclear talks on the one hand, and on the other hand it is simultaneously moving further and further away from core elements of the agreement,” news weekly Der Spiegel quoted German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas as saying.
Since the US pulled out, Iran has gradually been violating the deal’s restrictions to put pressures on the remaining parties to come up with economic incentives to offset crippling American sanctions.
The accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, is aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Tehran denies it is seeking any.
“We want a return to the JCPOA and are firmly convinced that it is in all sides’ interest,” Maas said. “But it is also clear that this option will not be open to us forever.”


EU court strips ex-Catalan leader of MEP immunity

EU court strips ex-Catalan leader of MEP immunity
Updated 30 July 2021

EU court strips ex-Catalan leader of MEP immunity

EU court strips ex-Catalan leader of MEP immunity
  • Puigdemont and two former ministers are wanted in Spain on allegations of sedition
  • The European Parliament voted to strip them of immunity, but the trio appealed to the court

LUXEMBOURG: The EU’s General Court on Friday upheld a decision by the European Parliament to lift the immunity of former Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont and two fellow pro-independence allies.
The move overturned a ruling in June that had seen the separatist politicians provisionally regain the legal protections afforded to members of the parliament.
Puigdemont, along with that of former Catalan regional ministers Toni Comin and Clara Ponsati, are wanted in Spain on allegations of sedition following an attempt by the Catalan region to gain independence through a referendum that Madrid ruled was unconstitutional.
In March, the European Parliament voted to strip them of immunity, but the trio appealed to the court arguing that they ran the risk of jail which would prevent them from exercising their mandate as elected European lawmakers.
The latest ruling on Friday rejected the claim that Puigdemont — based in Brussels since fleeing Spain in 2017 — and his colleagues face imminent arrest.
“There is no reason to consider that the Belgian judicial authorities or that the authorities of another Member State could execute the European arrest warrants issued against the deputies and could hand them over to the Spanish authorities,” the court said.
But it added that the three lawmakers — elected to the European Parliament in 2019 — could still reintroduce their demand to have their immunity reinstalled if authorities moved to arrest them and it became “sufficiently probable” they would be sent to Spain.
Madrid last month pardoned nine other jailed Catalan separatists behind the failed 2017 independence bid and released them from long prison sentences.


Airlift begins for Afghans who worked for US during long military campaign

Airlift begins for Afghans who worked for US during long military campaign
Updated 30 July 2021

Airlift begins for Afghans who worked for US during long military campaign

Airlift begins for Afghans who worked for US during long military campaign
WASHINGTON: Some 200 Afghans were set to begin new lives in the United States on Friday as an airlift got under way for translators and others who risk Taliban retaliation because they worked for the US government during its 20-year war in Afghanistan, US officials said.
The operation to evacuate US-affiliated Afghans and family members comes as the US troop pullout nears completion and government forces struggle to repulse Taliban advances.
The first planeload of some 200 evacuees were expected to be bused to Fort Lee, a US military base in Virginia, for final paperwork processing and medical examinations.
The Afghans who worked for the United States are being granted Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) entitling them to bring their families. As many as 50,000 or more people ultimately could be evacuated in “Operation Allies Refuge.”
The first group is among some 2,500 SIV applicants and family members who have almost completed the process, clearing them for evacuation, said Russ Travers, President Joe Biden’s deputy homeland security adviser.
The Afghans were expected to remain at Fort Lee for up to seven days before joining relatives or host families across the country.
The evacuees underwent “rigorous background checks” and COVID-19 tests, Travers added. Some were already vaccinated, and the rest will be offered jabs at Fort Lee.
The surging violence in Afghanistan has created serious problems for many SIV applicants whose paperwork is in the pipeline amid reports — denied by the Taliban — that some have been killed by vengeful insurgents.
Some applicants are unable to get to capital Kabul to complete required steps at the US embassy or reach their flights.
“We do lack the capacity to bring people to Kabul from other parts of the country or to house them in Kabul,” Tracey Jacobson, State Department coordinator of the operation, told reporters.
The SIV program has been plagued by long processing times and bureaucratic knots — which the Biden administration and Congress are working to undo — that led to a backlog of some 20,000 applications. The State Department has added staff to handle them.
“The US has had 20 years to anticipate what the withdrawal would look like,” said Adam Bates, policy counsel for the International Refugee Assistance Project, which provides legal aid to refugees. “It’s unconscionable that we are so late.”
Kim Staffieri, co-founder of the Association of Wartime Allies, which helps SIV applicants, said surveys the group has conducted over Facebook show that about half of SIV applicants cannot reach Kabul, including many approved for evacuation.
Congress created SIV programs in 2006 for Iraqi and Afghan interpreters who risked retaliation for working for the US government.

India reports most new COVID cases in three weeks

India reports most new COVID cases in three weeks
Updated 30 July 2021

India reports most new COVID cases in three weeks

India reports most new COVID cases in three weeks
  • The nationwide tally of infections has reached 31.57 million, according to health ministry data

NEW DELHI: India reported 44,230 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, the most in three weeks, the latest evidence of a worrying trend of rising cases that has forced one state to lock down amid fears of another wave of infections.
India was battered by the Delta variant of the virus in April and May but the rate of spread of infections later eased off. It has again been rising, with higher numbers in seven of the past eight days.
The nationwide tally of infections has reached 31.57 million, according to health ministry data. Deaths rose by 555 overnight, taking the overall toll to 423,217.
Medical experts polled by Reuters in late June said a third wave of coronavirus infections was likely to hit India by October, though it would be better controlled than the devastating April-May outbreak.
Health experts have called for faster vaccinations to stave off another big surge.
The government estimates that 67.6% of the 1.35 billion population already have antibodies against the coronavirus, with nearly 38% of the adult population of about 944 million people having received at least one vaccine dose.
The disease's estimated reproduction rate, or R value, has also inched up in the past week,
The R value hit 1 on July 24 - meaning on average, every 10 people infected will infect 10 other people - for the first time since May when daily infections were near a peak of 400,000.
The southern state of Kerala announced a new lockdown on Thursday while movement restrictions are in place in some northeastern states reporting a rise in infection rates.
Other places, including the capital New Delhi, have recently reopened most economic activities.