Iran now has ‘international criminal’ as president: Panel

Iran now has ‘international criminal’ as president: Panel
Iran's President-elect Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a news conference in Tehran, Iran June 21, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 June 2021

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.


Sudan state media report ‘failed’ coup attempt

Sudan state media report ‘failed’ coup attempt
Updated 21 September 2021

Sudan state media report ‘failed’ coup attempt

Sudan state media report ‘failed’ coup attempt
  • A top government source said the plotters had attempted to take over the state media building but ‘they failed’

KHARTOUM: A coup attempt in Sudan “failed” early Tuesday, state media reported, as the country grapples with a fragile transition since the 2019 ouster of longtime president Omar Al-Bashir.

Top military and government sources said that the attempt involved a group of officers who were “immediately suspended” after they “failed” to take over the state media building.

“There has been a failed coup attempt, the people should confront it,” state television said, without elaborating.

Senior member of Sudan’s ruling body, Taher AbuHajja, said “an attempt to seize power has been thwarted.”

Another senior ruling body member, Mohamed Al-Fekki said: “Everything is under control and the revolution is victorious.”

Traffic appeared to be flowing smoothly in central Khartoum, AFP correspondents reported, including around army headquarters, where protesters staged a mass sit-in that eventually led to Bashir’s ouster in a palace coup.

Security forces did however close the main bridge across the Nile connecting Khartoum to its twin city Omdurman.

Sudan is currently ruled by a transitional government composed of both civilian and military representatives that was installed in the aftermath of Bashir’s April 2019 overthrow and is tasked with overseeing a return to full civilian rule.

The August 2019 power-sharing deal originally provided for the formation of a legislative assembly during a three-year transition, but that period was reset when Sudan signed a peace deal with an alliance of rebel groups last October.

More than two years later, the country remains plagued by chronic economic problems inherited from the Bashir regime as well as deep divisions among the various factions steering the transition.

The promised legislative assembly has yet to materialize.

The government, led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, has vowed to fix the country’s battered economy and forge peace with rebel groups who fought the Bashir regime.

In recent months, his government has undertaken a series of tough economic reforms to qualify for debt relief from the International Monetary Fund.

The steps, which included slashing subsidies and a managed float of the Sudanese pound, were seen by many Sudanese as too harsh.

Sporadic protests have broken out against the IMF-backed reforms and the rising cost of living, as well as delays to deliver justice to the families of those killed under Bashir.

On Monday, demonstrators blocked key roads as well as the country’s key trade hub, Port Sudan, to protest the peace deal signed with rebel groups last year.


Former Egyptian defense minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi dies at 85

Former Egyptian defense minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi dies at 85
Updated 21 September 2021

Former Egyptian defense minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi dies at 85

Former Egyptian defense minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi dies at 85
  • Tantawi has participated in most of Egypt’s wars, including the wars of 1956 and 1967, the War of Attrition, and the 1973 October war

DUBAI: Former Egyptian Minister of Defense Mohamed Hussein Tantawi has died on Tuesday aged 85 after suffering from health problems for the past three months, local daily Al-Masry Al-Youm reported.

Tantawi has participated in most of Egypt’s wars, including the wars of 1956 and 1967, the War of Attrition, and the 1973 October war.

He further assumed the presidency of Egypt in his capacity as head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces after the resignation of former President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11 of 2011.


French FM applauds Middle East diplomacy, warns of Iranian transgressions

French FM applauds Middle East diplomacy, warns of Iranian transgressions
Updated 21 September 2021

French FM applauds Middle East diplomacy, warns of Iranian transgressions

French FM applauds Middle East diplomacy, warns of Iranian transgressions
  • Le Drian lauds August’s Baghdad Convention but warns Iran has repeatedly breached its nuclear commitments under the JCPOA
  • Minister laments ‘breach of trust’ by the UK and US over scuppering of a French submarine deal with Australia

NEW YORK: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has celebrated progress in diplomacy in the Middle East and promised that France will continue to take an active role in ensuring the region remains stable.

In a wide-ranging press conference held on Monday and attended by Arab News, Le Drian also lamented the recent “breach of trust” by the UK and US over the sale of submarines to Australia.

France had originally been slated to supply submarines to Australia as part of that deal, but Canberra did a U-turn in favor of an agreement with the US and UK, in what some have called an embarrassment for the French.

“In the Middle East, stability and security shall be the heart of our priorities. These require a regional dialogue, including in the unprecedented format of the Baghdad Conference on Aug. 28,” Le Drian said.

The Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership brought together many of the key powers in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Qatar, and Iran for dialogue aimed at easing security tensions in the region. France also attended the summit and has taken an active role in mediating conflict and disputes in the Middle East, in some form, for centuries.

“It was an exceptional meeting because those who attended were not used to sitting at the same table,” said Le Drian, who is currently in New York for the UN General Assembly’s week of high-level meetings.

“We managed to launch some sort of new spirit and to gather some support for a willingness to reduce regional tensions in an unprecedented format.”

Iran’s presence at the conference, he continued, may be seen as a “positive signal,” but he said that he would convene a meeting of the joint commission of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) because, “regarding Iran, we note that the negotiations were interrupted at the request of Iran and we need to make sure that, this week, we try to launch some positive momentum or negotiations to resume.”

The JCPOA, widely referred to as the Iran nuclear deal, saw heavy restrictions and monitoring placed on Tehran’s nascent nuclear program in return for much-needed sanctions relief. Iran and the US, which also left the deal, have been in negotiations for years over a bilateral return to the deal, but those have stalled in recent months.

“In the meantime, Iran keeps breaching some commitments that they made within the JCPOA,” said Le Drian, who also warned that “time is playing against the potential (nuclear) agreement because, as time goes by, the Iranian authorities are speeding up their nuclear activities.”

The minister also addressed the latest developments in Afghanistan, recently seized by the Taliban after 20 years of US presence in the country.

He said that France and its European partners had sent across a number of “very clear requirements” of the Taliban. Those include allowing people to leave the country if they wish, preventing the country from becoming a haven for terrorists, facilitating the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the country, and ensuring the rights of minorities, women, and journalists are upheld.

“Should the Taliban fail to meet these requirements, they will ban themselves from the international community,” Le Drian said.

He also supported the allocation by the UN of €100 million ($117,289,000) to Afghanistan and pointed out that the Europeans had already pledged over €600 million in humanitarian aid for Afghans.

Much of Le Drian’s attention throughout the conference, however, was focused on the recent news that Australia would scrap a lucrative deal with France to buy French-made submarines, and instead form a pact with the UK and US to purchase nuclear submarines.

That deal has proved highly controversial in France and across mainland Europe, and resulted in a diplomatic row between the longtime allies.

Le Drian said that Presidents Macron and Biden will “discuss the matter very frankly” when they speak.


Iran’s fuel shipments violate Lebanon’s sovereignty: PM Mikati

Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon September 13, 2021. (Reuters/File Photo)
Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon September 13, 2021. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 21 September 2021

Iran’s fuel shipments violate Lebanon’s sovereignty: PM Mikati

Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon September 13, 2021. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Lebanon’s new government said its permission was not sought regarding the import of Iranian diesel

BEIRUT: Iranian fuel shipments imported into Lebanon by Hezbollah constitute a breach of the country's sovereignty, Prime Minister Najib Mikati reiterated on Monday.

Lebanon’s new government, which was backed by a parliamentary vote of confidence on Monday, has said its permission was not sought regarding the import of Iranian diesel.

Hezbollah has stored the diesel in tanks in the Baalbek area owned by Al-Amana fuel company that has been under US sanctions since February 2020 due to its ties to the Iranian-backed group.

It began bringing tanker trucks carrying fuel from Iran last Thursday, a move it says would ease a crippling energy crisis in Lebanon. 

A tanker ship carried the fuel to Syria and from there it crossed into Lebanon. Both Syria and Iran are under US sanctions.

“The violation of Lebanon's sovereignty makes me sad," Mikati told CNN in an interview, his office said in a posting last week.

He added: “But I'm not concerned that sanctions can be imposed” on Lebanon “because the operation was carried out without the involvement of the Lebanese government.”

Late on Friday, the Lebanese broadcaster LBCI said that a new group of tankers carrying Iranian fuel entered Lebanon through the Hermel area, populated mainly by Shiite Muslims from whom Hezbollah draws its support.


Syrian migrants allowed in by Merkel vote to choose her successor

Syrian migrants allowed in by Merkel vote to choose her successor
Updated 21 September 2021

Syrian migrants allowed in by Merkel vote to choose her successor

Syrian migrants allowed in by Merkel vote to choose her successor
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open the door to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in 2015 was a defining issue of Germany’s last federal election campaign in 2017

BERLIN: Tarek Saad is keen to help other Syrian refugees who have fled the war in their homeland to make a new home in Germany and he sees the federal election on Sept. 26 as an opportunity to do just that.

Saad is campaigning in his adopted state of Schleswig-Holstein on the Baltic coast for the Social Democrats (SPD), a party he joined in 2016, just two years after he arrived in Germany bearing two gunshot wounds he had survived in Syria.

“I thought the things making my life difficult must be tormenting others as well. To overcome them as quickly as possible, one should be in a political party,” said the 28-year-old student of political science.

“Our parents lived under a different political system for long years (in Syria) ... This is an opportunity to develop a new generation (in Germany),” said Saad, who like many refugees will vote for the first time as a German citizen.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open the door to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees in 2015 was a defining issue of Germany’s last federal election campaign in 2017.

Not all newly naturalized refugees are as clear as Saad about their voting intentions.

“I am happy to have this opportunity but I am being cautious and maybe I won’t vote,” said Maher Obaid, 29, who lives in the town of Singen near the Swiss border.

Obaid, naturalized in 2019, said a lack of clarity among the parties on foreign policy issues, especially Syria, was behind his hesitation.

The number of Syrians who have acquired German citizenship rose by 74 percent in 2020 to 6,700, federal statistics show. The total number of Syrian refugees is estimated to be much higher, at over 700,000, but getting citizenship requires time and effort.

A 2020 study by the Expert Council on Integration and Migration (SVR) found that only 65 percent of Germans with a migration background voted in 2017, against 86 percent of native-born Germans.

Language fluency and socio-economic situation were two factors determining migrants’ participation, along with the length of their stay, the study found.

“The longer a person stays in Germany ... the more likely they are to feel they understand and can participate in political life,” it said.

Historically, migrants from southern Europe and Turkey who came as guest workers saw the Social Democrats as the party that best represented their interests, a study by the DIW research institute showed.

By contrast, Syrians were more likely to support Merkel’s conservatives who shaped the migration policy from 2013 to 2016 when the majority of them arrived in Germany, the study found.

But with Merkel bowing out of politics after 16 years at the helm, many Syrians are now making different calculations.

“Syrians should be very smart ... What Merkel did was right but what is her successor doing?” asked Abdulaziz Ramadan, head of a migrant integration organization in Leipzig who was naturalized in 2019.

An informal poll among members of a Syrian migrants’ group on Facebook showed most would now vote for the SPD, followed by the Greens, if they were entitled to vote. The option “I don’t care” was the third choice.

Mahmoud Al Kutaifan, a doctor living in the south-western city of Freiburg, is among the few Syrians who were naturalized in time to vote in the 2017 election.

“Out of emotion, I voted then for the party of Mrs. Merkel because she supported refugees,” he said.

While he has not regretted that decision, he, like many other German voters pondering the post-Merkel era, is unsure how to cast his ballot this time round.

“The election date is approaching but I honestly haven’t decided yet.”