UN rights council creates Afghanistan rapporteur

UN rights council creates Afghanistan rapporteur
Afghan girl sits with women wearing burqas outside a Kabul hospital. The EU won its battle at the UN Human Rights Council to create a new special rapporteur on Afghanistan. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 October 2021

UN rights council creates Afghanistan rapporteur

UN rights council creates Afghanistan rapporteur
  • The rapporteur will be responsible for monitoring the rights situation in the country following the Taliban takeover, and will make recommendations on improvements
  • “The actions of the Taliban directed against women and girls and the violation of their rights is highly worrying,” said the EU's ambassador to the UN in Geneva

GENEVA: The European Union on Thursday won its battle at the UN Human Rights Council to create a new special rapporteur on Afghanistan, despite opposition from China, Russia and Pakistan.
The rapporteur will be responsible for monitoring the rights situation in the country following the Taliban takeover, and will make recommendations on improvements.
“This is an essential step to ensure continued monitoring, through a dedicated and independent expert, and to help prevent a further deterioration of the human rights situation in Afghanistan,” said Lotte Knudsen, the EU’s ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva.
“The rights of women and girls are of particular concern to us. The actions of the Taliban directed against women and girls and the violation of their rights is highly worrying.”
The resolution creating the 12-month post was tabled with backing from the United States and the envoy appointed by the former Afghan government before the Taliban seized power.
It was comfortably adopted by the 47-member council, the United Nations’ top rights body.
Twenty-eight countries voted in favor, 14 abstained and five voted against, with Venezuela and Eritrea joining Pakistan, Russia and China.
Before the vote, Beijing’s representative said the resolution had “serious defects,” adding: “The US and its allies are the initiators of the Afghan problem” caused by their military intervention and occupation for 20 years.
During the council’s August 24 special session on Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, some nations unsuccessfully tried to establish a mechanism to monitor the rights situation in the country.
Since taking power on August 15, the Taliban have tried to convince Afghans and the outside world that their regime will be less brutal than their 1996-2001 spell in control.
In recent weeks, the EU and UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet took up the cause again.
A European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, told reporters they had tried to make the resolution as consensual as possible.
“The amount of support is as important as the message” that the world is watching Afghanistan, the diplomat said.
The rapporteur is charged with following the developing human rights situation in Afghanistan and making recommendations to improve it.
The expert will also be tasked with helping the country to fulfil its human rights obligations and “offer support and advice to civil society.”
The resolution also calls for an “immediate end to all human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in Afghanistan.”
It also calls for respect for fundamental freedoms, including the freedoms of peaceful assembly and expression.
The text condemns discrimination against women and girls, including forced marriages, and calls for an inclusive and representative government.
The rapporteur will submit a written report to the council within a year.
Amnesty International’s secretary general Agnes Callamard hoped it would be “a cornerstone in the quest for justice, truth and reparation for the people of Afghanistan,” given the gravity of the crisis engulfing the country.
John Fisher, the Geneva director of Human Rights Watch, said the rapporteur would bring “much-needed scrutiny to the rights crisis in Afghanistan” and “pave the way for a full investigative body to ensure that those responsible for violations and abuses are held to account.”

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Congresswoman Newman ousted by fellow Democrats over pro-Palestinian, progressive views

Congresswoman Newman ousted by fellow Democrats over pro-Palestinian, progressive views
Updated 51 min 27 sec ago

Congresswoman Newman ousted by fellow Democrats over pro-Palestinian, progressive views

Congresswoman Newman ousted by fellow Democrats over pro-Palestinian, progressive views
  • ‘Dark money’ and smearing as antisemitic scuppers re-election bid, says candidate’s advisor
  • ‘Campaign reforms vital to limit political funding by reactionary, pro-Israel, interest groups’

CHICAGO: Although many Arab activists will point a finger at former president Donald Trump and blame him for racism and discrimination against their community, one of the newest and loudest voices supporting Palestinian rights was ousted by the Democratic Party they supported during Tuesday’s Illinois elections.

Congresswoman Marie Newman, who was elected in 2020 to represent the 3rd District, which has one of the largest concentrations of Palestinian voters, lost her re-election bid to a fellow member of the Democratic Party who had support from both the Democrats and pro-Israel PACs.

Newman was targeted by these political action committees because she had during her first year in office introduced or co-sponsored dozens of resolutions and bills defending Palestinian civil and human rights, which also harshly criticized Israel’s government policies.

To silence Newman, her supporters said, her own Democratic Party redrew her district and forced her to run against another more centrist Democrat, two-term incumbent Sean Casten of the 6th District.

Newman lost to Casten in the Illinois Democratic Primary Tuesday, June 28. Casten received 54 percent of the vote while Newman received only 42.3 percent, according to unofficial Illinois State Election Board results.

Shadin Maali, a Palestinian American political consultant who joined Newman’s team, blamed her defeat on “dark money” and being defamed as “antisemitic” because of her criticism of Israel’s apartheid policies against Palestinians.

 

“We can be critical of our own government,” Maali told Arab News Wednesday during the broadcast of The Ray Hanania Show program.

“We can criticize our government left and right. We do it every day. It is our fundamental democratic right to do so. But for some reason, this whole antisemitic label, when we are, when we question, or are critical of Israel in any way (this is how we’re labelled). All anybody that is pro-peace, pro-justice is saying here in our district and all over the country and the world, is that we want rights to be recognized for everybody. That’s all.”

Maali said that Newman was the target of a massive assault funded by pro-Israel critics who opposed her supporting justice for Palestine.

 

“I think we need to get the money out of politics. It shouldn’t be about who raises the most money. It should be about who represents the people the best,” Maali said, arguing there needs to be limits on how much money candidates can spend or receive from outside special interest PACs.

“Campaign reform. We absolutely need campaign reform. Every time you mail out a negative ad smearing a candidate, that is ($30,000) to $50,000. Most of the time it is not the candidates doing that. It is the PACs, the special interest PACs that are endorsing these candidates and are working on their behalf.”

As of June 8, 2022, three weeks before the election, Casten raised $3,112,950 and spent $2,572,280, while Newman raised $1,467,558 and spent $1,176,151, according to Open Secrets which monitors campaign funding.

In addition to media purchased by Casten, pro-Israel PACs spent $504,266 to attack Newman in TV ads and mailers and $154,517 to support Casten.

 

“The dark money exactly. That is exactly what is happening. And it is what’s happening to Marie every single day. We were getting, in my house, we were getting two to three ads smearing Marie to try to get her out,” Maali said.

“Why is the establishment working so hard to taint the name of somebody who is the third most prolific legislator in office out of the new freshman class?”

She emphasized: “It is completely about the money. It is so horrible because we are not on an equal footing.”

Newman is only one of a handful of the 435 members of the US House of Representatives who openly criticize Israel.

Maali concluded that it was her own Democratic Party that marginalized her in the election, leading to her defeat, and silencing a voice for peace and justice.

The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern EST on WNZK AM 690 radio in Greater Detroit including parts of Ohio, and WDMV AM 700 radio in Washington D.C. including parts of Virginia and Maryland. The show is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

You can listen to the radio show podcast here.


Kuwait’s Ghanem stresses the world’s need for neutral third voice

Kuwait’s Ghanem stresses the world’s need for neutral third voice
Updated 50 min 51 sec ago

Kuwait’s Ghanem stresses the world’s need for neutral third voice

Kuwait’s Ghanem stresses the world’s need for neutral third voice
  • Ghanem cited Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories as a clear paradigm of the global failure to ensure mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty

BAKU: Kuwaiti National Assembly Speaker, Marzouq Al-Ghanem, said on Thursday that the world is in dire need of a principled neutral third voice calling for the application of law and justice in the face of risks worldwide, Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) reported.

At the Parliamentary Network of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Conference in Baku, Ghanem stated that the fact that the Palestinian struggle remains unresolved is proof of the ongoing threats in various world regions.

Ghanem added that although NAM was founded 67 years ago, the problems that led to its inception persist, with the risk of a third world war looming.

Ghanem cited Palestine and the Zionist occupation of Palestinian territories as a clear paradigm in this regard, saying its continuation is a disgrace to both the past and present world orders.

He stressed that looking forward, a major challenge will be promoting a movement that is moderate and fair.

Ghanem also thanked Azerbaijan for overseeing the Non-Aligned Movement since it assumed the rotating presidency three years ago, as well as for all of its efforts during its term.

The conference, which began earlier this Thursday, brings together parliamentary delegations from over 40 countries, as well as representatives from nine international parliamentary organizations, to advance their roles in promoting global peace and sustainable development.


US tells pharmas to make Covid boosters targeting BA.4 and BA.5

US tells pharmas to make Covid boosters targeting BA.4 and BA.5
Updated 30 June 2022

US tells pharmas to make Covid boosters targeting BA.4 and BA.5

US tells pharmas to make Covid boosters targeting BA.4 and BA.5
  • A panel of medical experts convened by the agency voted in favor of updating Covid vaccines against Omicron
  • BA.4 and BA.5, which are more transmissible and immune evasive, now comprise more than 52 percent of US Covid cases

WASHINGTON: The US Food and Drug Administration on Thursday told vaccine makers that Covid boosters for this fall and winter should include components targeting the BA.4 and BA.5 sub lineages of omicron.
Earlier this week, a panel of medical experts convened by the agency voted in favor of updating Covid vaccines against omicron, with most indicating they would favor shots that target the latest iterations rather than its original form, BA.1, fearing the latter would be too out-of-date.
BA.4 and BA.5, which are more transmissible and immune evasive, now comprise more than 52 percent of US Covid cases, according to an official tracker.
“We have advised manufacturers seeking to update their Covid-19 vaccines that they should develop modified vaccines that add an omicron BA.4/5 spike protein component to the current vaccine composition to create a two component (bivalent) booster vaccine,” the FDA said in a statement.
These vaccines would also need to target the original Wuhan strain, in order to increase the breadth of immune response.
Pfizer and Moderna, which produce messenger RNA Covid vaccines, have developed and tested vaccines against BA.1, and representatives of both companies indicated during the experts’ meeting they would need around three months to produce BA.4 and BA.5 vaccines at scale.
Pfizer shared early results showing its BA.4/5 vaccine produced a strong antibody response in mice, but it hasn’t yet been trialed in humans.
Novavax, which makes a protein subunit vaccine, said it could offer BA.4/5 vaccines by the end of the year.
The FDA said in its new statement that the companies would need to submit human data prior to authorization.
The “primary series” or first shots a person receives would remain against the original strain, the FDA added.
While previous “variants of concern” like Alpha and Delta eventually petered out, omicron and its sub lineages have dominated throughout 2022, to the point it comprises the vast majority of all Covid in the world, FDA official Jerry Weir told the expert meeting this week.
This makes it more likely that the virus’s future evolution will also occur along the omicron branch of the Covid family tree, he added.
Earlier this month, the World Health Organization also recommended the use of omicron boosters after a primary series against the original strain.


Muslim World League holds first conference of Asian ulama in Kuala Lumpur

Muslim World League holds first conference of Asian ulama in Kuala Lumpur
Updated 30 June 2022

Muslim World League holds first conference of Asian ulama in Kuala Lumpur

Muslim World League holds first conference of Asian ulama in Kuala Lumpur
  • More than 1,000 participants arrived from Saudi Arabia and 16 Asian countries
  • Conference was opened by Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob

KUALA LUMPUR: Participants from 17 countries gathered in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday for the first conference of Asian religious scholars organized in Malaysia by the Muslim World League to unite efforts addressing extremist ideologies.

The MWL is an international non-governmental Islamic organization founded in Saudi Arabia in 1962, that focuses on promoting and clarifying the worldwide understanding of Islam. It is headquartered in Makkah and maintains offices around the world.

More than 1,000 participants arrived from Saudi Arabia and countries including Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines.

The conference was opened by Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Malaysian Religious Affairs Minister Idris Ahmad and MWL Secretary-General Sheikh Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa.

“We feel proud and lucky that the MWL has chosen Malaysia to host the conference, which of course is a recognition to our country, which highlights Islam as a harmonious, safe and prosperous religion in a multi-racial and multi-religious society,” Yaakob said, adding that the meeting was taking place at a time when Muslims are still facing various challenges, including disputes among themselves, provocation, and Islamophobia.

The meeting will pave the way for the establishment in Kuala Lumpur a permanent council under the umbrella of the MWL.

Al-Issa said that the council’s first session was planned next year. The conference aims at developing educational tools and initiatives to foster collaboration and solidarity, especially among young and emerging leaders, to combat extremist ideology and what the MWL said in a statement were “artificial differences that sometimes exist” in politically diverse societies.

“With the efforts of the scholars, multi-pronged activities are being carried out to counter extremism in all parts of the world,” Al-Issa told Arab News on the sidelines of the conference. “We are hopeful that such efforts will bear fruits in due course and help wipe out extremism totally.”

He said that the MWL had chosen multiethnic Malaysia as it is “well known for its harmonious life.

“It is an ideal region for the propagation of harmony and peaceful coexistence among Muslims and non-Muslims,” he added.

“The attendance in large numbers bears eloquent testimony to the enthusiasm of the people and religious scholars to work towards peace, harmony, and coexistence.”


Taliban meet tribal leaders, minority reps in first loya jirga since takeover

Taliban meet tribal leaders, minority reps in first loya jirga since takeover
Updated 30 June 2022

Taliban meet tribal leaders, minority reps in first loya jirga since takeover

Taliban meet tribal leaders, minority reps in first loya jirga since takeover
  • Participants included non-Taliban local leaders, representatives of Afghan refugees
  • Gunshots heard near gathering site, 2 attackers reportedly killed

KABUL: Around 3,500 scholars and tribal elders from throughout Afghanistan gathered in Kabul on Thursday for a grand assembly meeting, the first such session since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last year.

Known as the loya jirga, grand assemblies are a centuries-old Afghan institution, a forum attended by various parties to discuss and reach a consensus on important political issues.

The conference, expected to end by July 2, was called by the Taliban, as unacknowledged by foreign governments they have been under mounting pressure to form an inclusive government to win international recognition.

Participants in Thursday’s session included non-Taliban local leaders, members of the minority Shiite community, as well as representatives of Afghan refugees in Iran and Pakistan. No female delegates were present.

Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund, acting prime minister of Afghanistan, opened the session by calling on the representatives of all Afghan groups to help uphold the Islamic system of governance, which the Taliban introduced as they took control of the country in August, following the withdrawal of US-led forces after two decades of war.

“We all should work to strengthen it,” Akhund said. “The Islamic Emirate is trying in all aspects to address all issues. There might be problems in some places, but if they are shared with us, we will take steps to solve them.”

Mawlawi Mohammed Omar Khattabi, from the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, who runs a network of madrasas and Islamic radios in southern Afghanistan, urged Taliban authorities to seek consultations with religious scholars when it came to the Islamic system, “because they know the nature of it,” but in professional and technical issues they, “must consult with experts.”

The issue of reopening of schools for girls was raised by Shiite scholar Sayed Nasrullah Waezi, from Bamyan in central Afghanistan.

Since the Taliban assumed power, they have introduced a series of restrictions on women, including on their clothing and choice of profession. Secondary school girls have been barred from education.

Waezi, who belongs to the Hazara community that had been targeted during the first Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001, said he hoped that under the current Taliban leadership Afghans could create in their country, “an atmosphere of harmony, sincerity, brotherhood, and fraternity.”

Despite heavy security surrounding the meeting’s venue, the Loya Jirga Tent at Kabul’s Polytechnic University, gunshots were heard during a lunch break. State broadcaster RTA reported that two assailants were killed.

The first loya jirga since the Taliban takeover, the meeting has so far raised hopes that some of the country’s current challenges can be addressed.

“It is a very positive step that the Taliban called for this gathering of scholars and tribal elders from all provinces of Afghanistan. Jirga has historically played a vital role in discussing and solving major national issues,” Hekmatullah Zaland, a member of the Center for Strategic and Regional Studies, told Arab News.

He said it was important that critical issues such as girls’ education, political reconciliation, people’s participation, and engagement with the international community be raised, as such discussions could, “help in addressing the challenges that we are facing right now.”