Philippine police say ICC suspension of drug war probe won’t stop local investigation

Philippine police say ICC suspension of drug war probe won’t stop local investigation
Philippine police said that the local authorities would proceed with their investigation into alleged abuses and extrajudicial killings under President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” (AP/File)
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Updated 25 November 2021

Philippine police say ICC suspension of drug war probe won’t stop local investigation

Philippine police say ICC suspension of drug war probe won’t stop local investigation

MANILA: Philippine police said on Wednesday that the local authorities would proceed with their investigation into alleged abuses and extrajudicial killings under President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs,” despite the decision by International Criminal Court (ICC) to suspend its probe.
Since taking office in 2016, Duterte has carried out an antidrug campaign that, according to official records, has led to the deaths of more than 6,000 Filipinos. ICC prosecutors estimate the death figure to be between 12,000 and 30,000.
The ICC in September authorized a full investigation into the antidrug campaign, which it said appeared to have been “a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population” and could amount to crimes against humanity.
Last week, the Hague-based court announced it had suspended the investigation to assess a deferral request from the Philippine government, triggering protests from rights groups and relatives of the people killed in the antidrug drive.
“The investigation continues here through the Department of Justice,” police spokesperson Col. Roderick Alba said in a statement, adding that authorities “respect the opinion of various organizations that are calling for the resumption of the investigation of the Philippines’ drug war before the ICC.”
The Philippines Justice Department has been probing dozens of police officers suspected of criminal abuse in antidrug operations after a UN Human Rights Council report said last year the drug war was an “illegal, murderous state policy.”
Last month, the Justice Department said it had found rights abuse instances in 52 deaths reviewed under the local investigation.
The justice department probe has been criticized by Human Rights Watch. Asia director Brad Adams said last week that the probe was meant merely to “stave off ICC action.”
While it had agreed to suspend the investigation, the ICC said on Tuesday that the Philippines must provide “tangible evidence, of probative value and a sufficient degree of specificity, demonstrating that concrete and progressive investigative steps have been or are currently being undertaken.”
In response to the announcement, Duterte’s acting spokesperson, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, said the government had “yet to receive a formal request with regard to this matter.”
“We reiterate our position that the ICC has no jurisdiction to probe our campaign against illegal drugs,” he said. 
Duterte pulled Manila out of the ICC in 2019 after it launched a preliminary probe into the war on drugs, but according to the court, it still has jurisdiction over crimes committed while the Philippines was still a member.


Myanmar court defers verdicts in Suu Kyi trial to Dec. 6

 Detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi (L) and detained president Win Myint (R) during their first court appearance in Naypyidaw. (AFP file photo)
Detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi (L) and detained president Win Myint (R) during their first court appearance in Naypyidaw. (AFP file photo)
Updated 15 sec ago

Myanmar court defers verdicts in Suu Kyi trial to Dec. 6

 Detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi (L) and detained president Win Myint (R) during their first court appearance in Naypyidaw. (AFP file photo)
  • Suu Kyi now appears most weekdays at the junta courtroom, with her legal team saying last month the hectic schedule was taking a toll on the 76-year-old’s health

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: A court in military-ruled Myanmar deferred on Tuesday verdicts in the trial of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to Dec. 6, a source familiar with the proceedings said.
The court had been due to rule on charges of incitement and violations of a law on natural disasters, accusations that Suu Kyi has rejected.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not give a reason for the deferral.
The Nobel laureate has been detained since the generals ousted her government in the early hours of February 1, ending the Southeast Asian country’s brief democratic interlude.
More than 1,200 people have been killed and over 10,000 arrested in a crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.
Suu Kyi faces three years in prison if found guilty of incitement against the military — although analysts say it is unlikely she will be taken away to jail on Tuesday.
Journalists have been barred from proceedings in the special court in the military-built capital Naypyidaw and Suu Kyi’s lawyers were recently banned from speaking to the media.
The courtroom will remain off-limits to reporters for the verdict, junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun recently said.
Days after the coup Suu Kyi was hit with obscure charges for possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies, and for violating coronavirus restrictions during elections her National League for Democracy (NLD) won in 2020.
The junta has since added a slew of other indictments, including violating the official secrets act, corruption and electoral fraud.
Suu Kyi now appears most weekdays at the junta courtroom, with her legal team saying last month the hectic schedule was taking a toll on the 76-year-old’s health.
Suu Kyi’s long spells of house arrest under a previous junta were spent at her family’s colonial-era mansion in Yangon, where she would appear before thousands gathered on the other side of her garden fence.
Min Aung Hlaing’s regime has confined her to an undisclosed location in the capital, with her link to the outside world limited to brief pre-trial meetings with her lawyers.
At her first court appearance, she used them to send a message of defiance, vowing the NLD would endure and asking the party faithful to remain united.
But in October her team were hit with a gag order after they relayed vivid testimony from deposed president Win Myint describing how he rejected a military offer to resign to save himself during the coup.
In recent weeks the trials of other ranking members of Suu Kyi’s NLD have wrapped up, with the junta doling out harsh sentences.
A former chief minister was sentenced to 75 years in jail earlier this month, while a close Suu Kyi aide was jailed for 20.


Barbados ditches Britain’s Queen Elizabeth

Barbados ditches Britain’s Queen Elizabeth
Updated 4 min 23 sec ago

Barbados ditches Britain’s Queen Elizabeth

Barbados ditches Britain’s Queen Elizabeth
  • Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, stood somberly as Queen Elizabeth’s royal standard was lowered and the new Barbados declared

BRIDGETOWN: Barbados ditched Britain’s Queen Elizabeth as head of state, forging a new republic on Tuesday with its first-ever president and severing its last remaining colonial bonds nearly 400 years after the first English ships arrived at the Caribbean island.

At the strike of midnight, the new republic was born to the cheers of hundreds of people lining Chamberlain Bridge in the capital, Bridgetown. A 21-gun salute fired as the national anthem of Barbados was played over a crowded Heroes Square.

Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, stood somberly as Queen Elizabeth’s royal standard was lowered and the new Barbados declared, a step which republicans hope will spur discussion of similar proposals in other former British colonies that have Queen Elizabeth as their sovereign.

Barbados casts the removal of Elizabeth II, who is still queen of 15 other realms including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Jamaica, as a way to finally break with the demons of its colonial history.

After a dazzling display of Barbadian dance and music, complete with speeches celebrating the end of colonialism, Sandra Mason was sworn in as Barbados’s first president in the shadow of Barbados’s parliament.

“Full stop this colonial page,” Winston Farrell, a Barbadian poet told the ceremony. “Some have grown up stupid under the Union Jack, lost in the castle of their skin.”

“It is about us, rising out of the cane fields, reclaiming our history,” he said. “End all that she mean, put a Bajan there instead.”

The birth of the republic, 55 years to the day since Barbados declared independence, unclasps almost all the colonial bonds that have kept the tiny island tied to England since an English ship claimed it for King James I in 1625.

It may also be a harbinger of a broader attempt by other former colonies to cut ties to the British monarchy as it braces for the end of Elizabeth’s nearly 70-year reign and the future accession of Charles.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the leader of Barbados’ republican movement, helped lead the ceremony. Mottley has won global attention by denouncing the effects of climate change on small Caribbean nations.

“Tonight’s the night!” read the front-page headline of Barbados’ Daily Nation newspaper.

“I’m overjoyed,” Ras Binghi, a Bridgetown cobbler, said ahead of the ceremony. Binghi said he would be saluting the new republic with a drink and a smoke.

Prince Charles will give a speech highlighting the continuing friendship of the two nations despite England’s central role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

While Britain casts slavery as a sin of the past, some Barbadians are calling for compensation from Britain.

Activist David Denny celebrated the creation of the republic but said he opposes the visit by Prince Charles, noting the royal family for centuries benefited from the slave trade.

“Our movement would also like the royal family to pay a reparation,” Denny said in an interview in Bridgetown.

The English initially used white British indentured servants to toil on the plantations of tobacco, cotton, indigo and sugar, but Barbados in just a few decades would become England’s first truly profitable slave society.

Barbados received 600,000 enslaved Africans between 1627 and 1833, who were put to work in the sugar plantations, earning fortunes for the English owners.

More than 10 million Africans were shackled into the Atlantic slave trade by European nations between the 15th and 19th centuries. Those who survived the often brutal voyage, ended up toiling on plantations.

Barbados will remain a republic within the Commonwealth, a grouping of 54 countries across Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.

Outside the lavish official ceremony, some Barbadians said they were uncertain what the transition to a republic even meant or why it mattered.

“They should leave Queen Elizabeth be — leave her as the boss. I don’t understand why we need to be a republic,” said Sean Williams, 45, standing in the shadow of an independence monument.

The last time the queen was removed as head of state was in 1992 when the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius proclaimed itself a republic.


Pentagon plans stronger US posture toward China, Russia

Pentagon plans stronger US posture toward China, Russia
Updated 30 November 2021

Pentagon plans stronger US posture toward China, Russia

Pentagon plans stronger US posture toward China, Russia
  • The US Defense Department will be upgrading and expanding military facilities in Guam and Australia

WASHINGTON: The US military will re-inforce deployments and bases directed at China and Russia, while maintaining forces in the Middle East adequate to deter Iran and jihadist groups, the Pentagon said Monday, referencing results of a review.
The US Defense Department will be upgrading and expanding military facilities in Guam and Australia, underscoring its focus on China as the country's leading defense rival, officials said.
The details of the "global posture review," commissioned by President Joe Biden's administration early this year, would remain classified, the officials added, so as not to reveal plans to rivals.
The move comes in the wake of the formation of a new defense alliance, dubbed AUKUS, between the United States, Britain and Australia to counter a rising China, which has been building up its own navy and testing decades of US military dominance across Asia.
That pact was formed as Beijing solidifies its control over the disputed South China Sea and intensifies its military threats towards Taiwan, for which the United States is a key ally and arms supplier.
The review confirmed the priority region for the US military was the Indo-Pacific, said Mara Karlin, a top Pentagon policy official.
The review "directs additional cooperation with allies and partners across the region to advance initiatives that contribute to regional stability and deter potential military aggression from China and threats from North Korea," she told reporters.
In addition, it "strengthens the combat-credible deterrent against Russian aggression in Europe and enables NATO forces to operate more effectively," she said.
The Middle East, however, remains an area of flux for the Pentagon after the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Global responsibilities "require us to make continuous changes to our Middle East posture, but we always have the capability to rapidly deploy forces to the region based on the threat environment," Karlin said.
Speaking separately, a senior Pentagon official who declined to be identified, downplayed any idea of radical shifts.
"In the first year of an administration, it's not the time when we would develop a major strategic-level change to our posture," the official said.
However, the official added, the Biden team felt the review necessary after the disruptive approach of his predecessor Donald Trump, who altered US commitments abruptly.
Under Trump, "there were oftentimes a devaluing of ally and partner input and engagement, which eroded US credibility and hard-won trust," the official said.
The officials declined to answer questions on how the global posture review sees US force presence in ongoing conflict zones like the Middle East, East and West Africa, and Eastern Europe.
But they confirmed previously announced plans to do more in Guam and Australia.
"In Australia, you'll see new rotational fighter and bomber aircraft deployments, you'll see ground forces training and increased logistics cooperation," said Karlin.
In Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and Australia there will also be upgrades to airports and fuel and munitions storage facilities, she said.
Asked if the review foresaw more increases in the US presence in the Pacific region, Karlin said: "We're moving the needle a bit."
"And what I'd like to think is, over the coming years, you will see that needle move more," she said.


Argentina to probe Myanmar war crimes claims

Rohingya refugees gather to mark the second anniversary of the exodus at the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (REUTERS file photo)
Rohingya refugees gather to mark the second anniversary of the exodus at the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 30 November 2021

Argentina to probe Myanmar war crimes claims

Rohingya refugees gather to mark the second anniversary of the exodus at the Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. (REUTERS file photo)
  • Proceedings against Myanmar and its leaders are already under way at the International Criminal Court and the UN’s International Court of Justice

BUENOS AIRES: Argentina’s justice system will investigate allegations of war crimes committed by the Myanmar military against that country’s Rohingya minority under a court ruling upholding the principles of “universal justice.”
The appeals court decision, which AFP has seen, overturns a lower court ruling rejecting a request for an investigation by the British-based Burmese Rohingya Organization (BROUK).
A 2017 army crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, which the UN says could amount to genocide, has triggered an exodus of more than 740,000 members of the community, mainly to Bangladesh.
The legal premise of “universal justice” holds that some acts — including war crimes and crimes against humanity — are so horrific they are not specific to one nation and can be tried anywhere.
Argentina’s courts have taken up other universal jurisdiction cases in the past, including in relation to ex-dictator Francisco Franco’s rule in Spain and the Falun Gong movement in China.
Proceedings against Myanmar and its leaders are already under way at the International Criminal Court and the UN’s International Court of Justice.
Six Rohingya women, refugees in Bangladesh, had given remote testimony to the court in Argentina.
One of the complainants said they “had all been sexually assaulted and that many of their family members had died as a result of the repression they had suffered” in August 2017, the court recalled.
In their decision, the appeals judges said that “the investigation and eventual judgment of this type of crime is the primary responsibility of states.”
BROUK president Tun Knin in a statement said the ruling represented hope “not just for us Rohingya but for oppressed people everywhere.”
He added: “The decision in Argentina shows that there is nowhere to hide for those who commit genocide — the world stands firmly united against these abhorrent crimes.”


Zara blocked in France over Uyghur probe

A screen shows a picture of Chinese President Xi Jinping at a traffic junction in Hotan, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, April 30, 2021. (REUTERS)
A screen shows a picture of Chinese President Xi Jinping at a traffic junction in Hotan, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, April 30, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 30 November 2021

Zara blocked in France over Uyghur probe

A screen shows a picture of Chinese President Xi Jinping at a traffic junction in Hotan, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China, April 30, 2021. (REUTERS)
  • French magistrates opened in June an inquiry into allegations by rights groups that four fashion firms including Zara-owner Inditex profited from forced labor of the Uyghur minority in China

BORDEAUX: The expansion of a Zara clothing store in France was blocked over a probe into whether its parent company Inditex benefits from the use of forced labor of Uyghurs in China, officials said Monday.
Zara France wanted to double the surface area of its shop in the center of the southern city of Bordeaux, but on November 9 the regional commission charged with examining the project voted against it.
The commission members who voted against the expansion invoked the existence of the probe into whether the Spanish firm benefits from the use of forced labor by members of the Uyghur minority by its Chinese suppliers.
“It was a political decision by us,” said Alain Garnier, one of the elected officials on the commission.
“We wanted to send a strong signal by blocking the expansion of stores that don’t have sufficient control over their suppliers,” he added.
French magistrates opened in June an inquiry into allegations by rights groups that four fashion firms including Zara-owner Inditex profited from forced labor of the Uyghur minority in China.
Rights groups believe at least one million Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim minorities have been incarcerated in camps in the Xinjiang region, where China is also accused of forcibly sterilising women and imposing forced labor.
Inditex disputed at the time that it had used cotton from Xinjiang and said it has strict traceability controls in place.
“With the impact of fast fashion on the environment and suspicions about the use of forced labor of Uyghurs, Zara’s project seemed to us to breach the sustainable development criteria” taken into consideration by the commission, said another member, Sandrine Jacotot.
Jacotot, who is also Bordeaux’s deputy mayor for commerce, said it was now up Zara to appeal the decision on the national level “to explain the company respects” the sustainable development criteria.