Italian FM denies funding Libyan coast guard accused of human rights abuses

Italian FM denies funding Libyan coast guard accused of human rights abuses
German NGO migrant rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 crew protest the Italian Parliament’s planned vote on renewing cooperation with Libya and funding the Libyan Coast Guard, Burriana, Spain, July 14, 2021. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 15 July 2021

Italian FM denies funding Libyan coast guard accused of human rights abuses

Italian FM denies funding Libyan coast guard accused of human rights abuses
  • The minister’s assurances came in the wake of a plea by several NGOs for Italy to restrain from financing Libyan authorities
  • Italy recently donated a number of its former patrol vessels for use by the Libyan coast guard and has helped with the training of personnel

ROME: Italy’s foreign minister has denied funding Libyan coast guard operations in the Mediterranean following claims by charity groups of human rights abuses of migrants and refugees.

During a session of the Italian Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday, Luigi Di Maio said Rome “had not, and would not” provide funds for such activities.

The minister’s assurances came in the wake of a plea by several NGOs for Italy to restrain from financing Libyan authorities.

In the parliamentary hearing on Italian military missions abroad, including the country’s presence in Libya, Di Maio added: “Strengthening of the Libyan authorities’ capacity to conduct search and rescue operations in their own areas of responsibility, respecting international norms, is one of the lines pursued by the (Italian) government.”

Italy recently donated a number of its former patrol vessels for use by the Libyan coast guard and has helped with the training of personnel.

Addressing deputies, Di Maio said: “It fits into the framework of initiatives to encourage a management (of migrant flows) that is more respectful of international standards on irregular flows (by Libya), and to combat the trafficking of human beings.”

He pointed out that he and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi had attended several meetings over recent months with Libyan authorities during which the issues were discussed.

More than 100 associations joined a protest outside the building where the parliamentary session was being held.

Erasmo Palazzotto, an MP from the Italian left-wing LeU party supporting Draghi’s Cabinet, told Arab News: “We denounce the responsibility of Italian authorities in the constant massacre of migrant people in the central Mediterranean and in the cycle of violence, exploitation, and violation of human rights systematically endured by migrants and refugees in Libya.”

The NGOs have demanded “absolute guarantees” on the respect of human rights.

“Any cooperation with Libyan authorities must be stopped unless concrete guarantees on the protection of human rights of migrants and refugees are granted; we say no to support and cooperation with the Libyan coast guard aimed at forced pushbacks in Libya,” Palazzotto said.

He called for “a plan providing for the immediate evacuation of people held in Libyan detention centers and the extension of regular entry channels for migrant people and refugees,” along with, “the restoration of an institutional system for search and rescue (operations) in the central Mediterranean and the recognition of the essential role undertaken by NGOs in the safeguarding of lives at sea.”

Democratic party MP, Laura Boldrini, highlighted an incident reported by non-profit rescue group Sea-Watch on June 30, in which the Libyan coast guard — using a vessel donated by the Italian government — was allegedly seen firing live ammunition at a migrant boat in an apparent attempt to stop it from crossing the Mediterranean to Europe.

She said: “The Italian Parliament cannot be deaf and blind regarding the unscrupulous methods used by the Libyan coast guard. Shooting at a boat full of people is a criminal operation.”

The parliamentary session passed a resolution to increase Italy’s engagement in the EU naval force Mediterranean operation (IRINI) — that helps in the training of the Libyan coast guard and navy and the disruption of human smuggling and trafficking — so as to limit Italian direct cooperation with the Libyan coast guard.

The resolution, approved by the Italian Chamber of Deputies, said: “This will allow to consolidate the role of Italy in Libya, rationalize the structure of command, and strengthen the European role.”


Arab coalition: Over 200 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah

Arab coalition: Over 200 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah
Updated 45 min 10 sec ago

Arab coalition: Over 200 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah

Arab coalition: Over 200 Houthis killed in strikes on Juba and Al-Kasarah
  • The coalition said it had carried out 88 air strikes on the districts of Juba and Al-Kasarah during the last 72 hours
  • Arab coalition said it had destroyed four explosive-laden Houthi boats in Hodeidah on Saturday

RIYADH: The Arab coalition said on Sunday that more than 264 Houthis had been killed and 36 military vehicles destroyed in air strikes on two districts near the central Yemeni city of Marib.

The coalition said it had carried out 88 air strikes on the districts of Juba and Al-Kasarah during the last 72 hours.

Juba is some 50 km south of Marib, whilst Al-Kasarah is 30 km northwest of the city.

The strikes come a day after the Arab coalition said it had destroyed four explosive-laden Houthi boats in Yemen’s western province of Hodeidah.

Warplanes targeted Al-Jabanah coastal base, east of Hodeidah city, where the vessels had been prepared to attack international ships sailing through the Red Sea, the coalition said.


Sudan: Political tensions continue as protesters block roads

Sudan: Political tensions continue as protesters block roads
Updated 24 October 2021

Sudan: Political tensions continue as protesters block roads

Sudan: Political tensions continue as protesters block roads
  • The current crisis surfaced with a coup attempt last month

CAIRO: Pro-military protesters briefly blocked major roads and bridges in Sudan’s capital Sunday, amid growing tensions between the generals and the pro-democracy movement that fueled the uprising against autocratic former president Omar Al-Bashir.
The development came a day after US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman met with military and civilian leaders in Khartoum to find a compromise to the dispute.
The souring ties between the military and civilians in the ruling government threaten Sudan’s fragile transition to democracy since the military’s ouster of Al-Bashir and his Islamist government in April 2019 after nearly three decades of autocratic rule.
The current crisis surfaced with a coup attempt last month. Officials blamed Al-Bashir loyalists for the move. But the generals lashed out at the civilian part of the government, accusing politicians of seeking government posts rather than helping ease people’s economic suffering.
Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the ruling Sovereign Council, said that dissolving the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Hamdok could resolve the ongoing political crisis. That suggestion was rejected by hundreds of thousands of pro-democracy protesters who took to the streets of Khartoum and elsewhere in the country Thursday.
That generals’ accusations, echoed by Burhan and his deputy, Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the feared paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, have aroused fears among civilians that the military may eventually hijack the country’s transition to civilian rule.
Pro-military protesters rallied in Khartoum earlier this month, echoing Burhan’s demands. The protesters have since held a sit-in outside the presidential palace in the capital. Last week, they attempted to storm the Cabinet headquarters as Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok met with his Cabinet. Security forces dispersed them using tear gas.
On Saturday, dozens of pro-military protesters stormed the reception area of the headquarters of the country’s state-run news agency and set tires ablaze outside the agency offices. It delayed a news conference for pro-democracy activists, according to Mohamed Abdel-Hamid, director of SUNA news agency.
In an escalation Sunday, pro-military demonstrators cut off major roads and bridges, including the Mec Nimr Bridge, which links Khartoum’s downtown with other areas of the capital, according to activist and rights defender Tahani Abbas. The move caused traffic to clog the streets early Sunday, the first work day of the week, especially Nile Street, a main traffic artery in Khartoum.
“What is happening ... is an official coup sponsored by Burhan,” she said. Abbas shared photos of protesters blocking a bridge with passenger buses and vehicles being turned back.
Later in the day, security forces dispersed the protesters using tear gas to open the blocked roads. Video on social media purportedly showed protesters fleeing over the bridge and on Nile Street.
Feltman, the US envoy, met in Khartoum with Buhan, Dagalo and Hamdok and “emphasized US support for a civilian democratic transition in accordance with the expressed wishes of the Sudanese people,” the US Embassy in Khartoum said.
He urged Sudanese leaders “to commit to working together to implement the constitutional declaration and the Juba Peace Agreement” between the government and an alliance of rebel groups, the embassy said.
The tensions come weeks ahead of a scheduled rotation of the leadership on the ruling sovereign council from the military to civilians, according to the constitutional declaration that established the joint government in August 2019.


Libya’s elections commission to open registration for candidates in Nov, commission head says

Libya’s elections commission to open registration for candidates in Nov, commission head says
Updated 24 October 2021

Libya’s elections commission to open registration for candidates in Nov, commission head says

Libya’s elections commission to open registration for candidates in Nov, commission head says

DUBAI: Registration for candidates in Libya’s presidential and parliamentary elections should open in November, the head of the High National Elections Commission, said on Sunday.
Emad Al-Sayah said the registration process should open by mid-November after technical and logistical preparations are completed.
Elections have been viewed as a key step in efforts to end a decade of violence by creating a new political leadership whose legitimacy is widely accepted.
But wrangling over the constitutional basis for elections, the rules governing the vote and questions over its credibility have threatened to unravel the country’s peace process in recent months.
Libya’s prime minister and several foreign powers on Thursday endorsed the holding of a national election on Dec. 24 as envisaged in a UN-backed peace plan aimed at resolving years of turmoil and division.
However, although parliament has issued a law for the presidential election on that date, it has also issued a separate law saying the parliamentary election will happen at a later date. Other political institutions in Libya have rejected parliament’s proposals.
The first round of the presidential election is due to be held on Dec. 24. A second round, along with a parliamentary election, will then be held at a later date, said Al-Sayah.


Israel, UAE sign ‘green corridor’ agreement for vaccinated passengers — Israeli consulate in Dubai

Israel, UAE sign ‘green corridor’ agreement for vaccinated passengers — Israeli consulate in Dubai
Updated 24 October 2021

Israel, UAE sign ‘green corridor’ agreement for vaccinated passengers — Israeli consulate in Dubai

Israel, UAE sign ‘green corridor’ agreement for vaccinated passengers — Israeli consulate in Dubai
  • Passengers vaccinated against the coronavirus can travel freely between the two countries

DUBAI: Israel and the United Arab Emirates have signed a “green corridor” agreement allowing passengers vaccinated against the novel coronavirus to travel freely between the two countries, the Israeli consulate in Dubai said on Twitter on Sunday.


Israel set to OK 3,000 West Bank settler homes this week

Israel set to OK 3,000 West Bank settler homes this week
Updated 24 October 2021

Israel set to OK 3,000 West Bank settler homes this week

Israel set to OK 3,000 West Bank settler homes this week

TEL AVIV: Israel is expected to move forward with thousands of new homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank this week, a settlement watchdog group said Sunday.
The plan for some 3,000 new settler units in the West Bank has already drawn calls for restraint from the US, which on Friday voiced “concern” over the expected approvals.
Hagit Ofran from the anti-settlement group Peace Now said a committee is set to meet Wednesday to approve 2,800 units deep in the West Bank, complicating any efforts to create a Palestinian state. More than half of those are receiving final approval, meaning construction could begin in the coming year.
On Friday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US was “concerned” about the housing plans. He called on Israel and the Palestinians to “refrain from unilateral steps that exacerbate tension and undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution” to the conflict.
The Palestinians seek the West Bank, along with the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem — areas Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war — for their future state. The Palestinians view the settlements, which house some 700,000 settlers, as the main obstacle to peace. Most of the international community considers settlements illegal.
Israel views the West Bank as the biblical and historical heartland of the Jewish people.
Ofran said Israel is also set to approve 1,600 units for Palestinians in the areas of the West Bank that it controls. But critics say the move comes at the initiative of villagers and not the Israeli government and that the figure is a fraction of the building permits requested by Palestinians over the years.