Help build solid basis for Libyan elections and don’t fixate on dates, Security Council told

Stephanie Williams, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s special adviser on Libya, recently reiterated the importance of holding elections “in the shortest possible time frame.” (Reuters/File Photo)
Stephanie Williams, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s special adviser on Libya, recently reiterated the importance of holding elections “in the shortest possible time frame.” (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 25 January 2022

Help build solid basis for Libyan elections and don’t fixate on dates, Security Council told

Stephanie Williams, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s special adviser on Libya, recently reiterated the importance of holding elections “in the shortest possible time frame.” (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Lawyer and activist Elham Saudi condemned “weak” vetting that resulted in candidates implicated in corruption and crimes against humanity being cleared to stand
  • US envoy highlighted concerns about deteriorating human rights situation in the country and continuing reports of violence and abuse targeting migrants, asylum seekers and refugees

NEW YORK: Mediators need to take into account the lessons learned in Libya in the past two years and focus on “creating milestones” for the country’s political transition, rather than fixating on the time frame involved, according to Elham Saudi, co-founder and director of Lawyers for Justice in Libya.

These milestones include an electoral law, a code for conducting elections, and a solid constitutional basis “that appropriately sequences presidential and legislative elections in line with the broader road map to complete (the) transition effectively,” he said.

Addressing the UN Security Council on Monday during its regular meeting about developments in Libya, Saudi said that when these steps are implemented, elections will naturally follow and will be “far easier to manage, protect and successfully deliver.”

Stephanie Williams, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s special adviser on Libya, recently reiterated the importance of holding elections “in the shortest possible time frame.” She said this month that “it is possible, and needed, to have elections before the end of June.”

However, Saudi said that “focusing on the dates for the elections instead of a clear process to facilitate them risks once again compromising due process for the sake of perceived political expediency.”

Growing polarization among political powers in the country and disputes over key aspects of the electoral process — including shortcomings in the legal framework for the elections, contradictory court rulings on candidacies, and political and security concerns as cited by the High National commission for Elections — resulted in the postponement of the elections, which had been scheduled to take place on Dec. 24 last year.

Saudi reminded members of the Security Council that “accountability is a prerequisite to political progress. Poorly defined and fundamentally weak vetting criteria applied to candidates applying for elections resulted in individuals implicated in corruption or crimes against humanity and human rights violations, including persons who have been indicted by the ICC (International Criminal Court), being accepted as candidates.”

Following the postponement of polling in December, Libya’s House of Representatives established a “road map committee” to develop a new path toward national elections. The committee will present its first report for debate on Tuesday in Tripoli.

Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN’s under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs, welcomed what she described as renewed efforts by Libya’s Presidency Council to advance national reconciliation but lamented the political uncertainty in the run-up to the elections. which she said has “negatively impacted the overall security situation, including in Tripoli, resulting in shifting alliances among armed groups affiliated with certain presidential candidates.”

She expressed concern about the human rights situation in Libya, citing “incidents of elections-related violence and attacks based on political affiliation, as well as threats and violence against members of the judiciary involved in proceedings on eligibility of electoral candidates, and against journalists, activists and individuals expressing political views.”

DiCarlo added: “Such incidents are an obstacle to creating a conducive environment for free, fair, peaceful and credible elections.”

Taher El-Sonni, Libya’s permanent representative to the UN, told the Security Council that while some people had been surprised by the postponement of elections, it had been widely expected.

“In light of the crisis of trust and the absence of a constitution for the country, or a consensual constitutional rule as advocated by most political forces now, it will be very difficult to conduct these elections successfully because the elections are supposed to be a means of political participation and not a means of predominance and exclusion, and a means to support stability and not an end in itself that may open the way for a new conflict,” he said.

El-Sonni called on the UN to offer more “serious and effective” support to the electoral process and send teams to assess the requirements on the ground.

“This would be a clear message to all about the seriousness of the international community in achieving elections that everyone aspires to, without questioning it or its results,” he said.

The Libyan envoy invited the council to “actively contribute” to the processes of national reconciliation and transitional justice, “two concomitant and essential tracks that have unfortunately been lost during the past years, although they are the main basis for the success of any political solution that leads to the stability of the country.”

He also once again called on the African Union to support his country’s efforts in this area.

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, senior advisor for special political affairs to the US mission at the UN, said it is time for the wishes of the millions of Libyans who have registered to vote to be respected.

“It is time to move beyond backroom deals between a small circle of powerful individuals backed by armed groups, carving up spoils and protecting their positions,” he said “The Libyan people are ready to decide their own future.

“Those vying to lead Libya must see that the Libyan people will only accept leadership empowered by elections and that they will only tolerate so much delay.”

Like many other ambassadors at the meeting, DeLaurentis also addressed the migrant crisis and reports of violence and abuses directed at migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Libya.

“Libyan authorities must close illicit detention centers, end arbitrary detention practices and permit unhindered humanitarian access to affected populations,” he said.


Israel fires missile defenses near Lebanon after misidentification

Israel fires missile defenses near Lebanon after misidentification
Updated 55 min 24 sec ago

Israel fires missile defenses near Lebanon after misidentification

Israel fires missile defenses near Lebanon after misidentification
  • “Due to a misidentification, the air defense soldiers launched interceptors and as a result an alert was activated,” said the military

JERUSALEM: Israel activated its missile defenses on Thursday after mistakenly identifying a threat near the border with Lebanon, the Israeli military said.
The incident also set off air raid sirens in parts of northern Israel.
“Due to a misidentification, the air defense soldiers launched interceptors and as a result an alert was activated,” the military said.


Dubai announces plan to improve municipality and land department services, cut costs

Dubai announces plan to improve municipality and land department services, cut costs
The plan also seeks to promote productive partnerships with the private sector. (WAM)
Updated 19 May 2022

Dubai announces plan to improve municipality and land department services, cut costs

Dubai announces plan to improve municipality and land department services, cut costs
  • The restructuring plan comes as part of the government’s mission to increase productivity and develop comprehensive strategic plans to achieve the organizations’ objectives

Dubai’s government has announced plans to improve services in the municipality and land departments by 20 percent, while reducing operational costs by 10 percent, state news agency WAM reported.

The restructuring plan comes as part of the government’s mission to increase productivity and develop comprehensive strategic plans to achieve the organizations’ objectives, report added. 

The plan also seeks to promote productive partnerships with the private sector and create new business opportunities worth $2.723bln per year, according to WAM.

The restructuring plan for Dubai Land Department also aims to improve the competitiveness of Dubai’s real estate sector and improve operational efficiency by 20 percent.

WAM reported that the plan also has a focus on making Dubai one of the world’s highest ranked cities in real estate market indicators and enhancing investment in the sector. 

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and First Deputy Chairman of the Dubai Council, and Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance and Second Deputy Chairman of the Dubai Council, met with Mattar Al Tayer, Commissioner-General for Infrastructure, Urban Planning and Wellbeing and Member of the Dubai Council on Wednesday to discuss the initiative. 

“The comprehensive restructuring plan of Dubai Municipality and Dubai Land Department forms part of Dubai’s efforts to transform itself into the world’s best city to live and work and ensure its services and operations keep pace with the evolving global environment,” Sheikh Hamdan said. 

“The teams in the two departments have a great responsibility to lead and manage Dubai’s strategic projects. We will be closely following their progress and supporting them to achieve their objectives.”


Amnesty demands FIFA pay $440m to Qatar’s ‘abused migrant workers’

Amnesty demands FIFA pay $440m to Qatar’s ‘abused migrant workers’
Updated 19 May 2022

Amnesty demands FIFA pay $440m to Qatar’s ‘abused migrant workers’

Amnesty demands FIFA pay $440m to Qatar’s ‘abused migrant workers’
  • FIFA should earmark at least $440 million to provide remedy for the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who have suffered human rights abuses in Qatar during preparations for the 2022 World Cup

LONDON: Rights group Amnesty International on Thursday urged football’s governing body FIFA pay compensation equal to the total 2022 World Cup prize money for migrant workers “abused” in host nation Qatar.
The call, backed by other rights organizations and fan groups, follows allegations that FIFA was slow to safeguard against the exploitation of workers who flooded into the tiny Gulf state to build infrastructure in the years leading up to the tournament that starts November 21.
“FIFA should earmark at least $440 million to provide remedy for the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who have suffered human rights abuses in Qatar during preparations for the 2022 World Cup,” Amnesty said in a statement accompanying a report.
The London-based group urged FIFA president Gianni Infantino “to work with Qatar to establish a comprehensive remediation program.”
It alleged that a “litany of abuses” had taken place since 2010, the year FIFA awarded the 2022 tournament to Qatar “without requiring any improvement in labor protections.”
“Given the history of human rights abuses in the country, FIFA knew — or should have known — the obvious risks to workers when it awarded the tournament to Qatar,” said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty’s secretary general.
Amnesty said some abuses persist and described $440 million as the “minimum necessary” to cover compensation claims and to ensure remedial initiatives are expanded for the future.
The sum is roughly the total prize money for this year’s World Cup. Amnesty’s call was backed in an open letter to Infantino also signed by nine other organizations, including Migrant Rights and Football Supporters Europe.
When asked for comment, FIFA said it was “assessing the program proposed by Amnesty” for Qatar, highlighting that it “involves a wide range of non-FIFA World Cup-specific public infrastructure built since 2010.”
Qatar’s World Cup organizers said they have “worked tirelessly” with international groups for the rights of workers on stadiums and other tournament projects. Much of the criticism has however been directed at construction outside the official tournament where hundreds of workers are said to have died in the past decade.
“Significant improvements have been made across accommodation standards, health and safety regulations, grievance mechanisms, health care provision, and reimbursements of illegal recruitment fees to workers,” said a spokesperson for the organizers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.
“This tournament is, and will continue to be a powerful catalyst for delivering a sustainable human and social legacy ahead of, during, and beyond the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.”
Workers’ claims range from unpaid salaries, “illegal” and “extortionate” recruitment fees averaging $1,300 to secure jobs, and compensation for injuries and deaths.
Amnesty welcomed initiatives by FIFA and Qatar, including improvements made on World Cup construction sites and labor legislation reforms introduced since 2014.
Qatar in 2017 introduced a minimum wage, cut the hours that can be worked in extreme heat, and ended part of a system which forced migrant workers to seek employers’ permission to change jobs or even leave the country.
Workers can go to labor tribunals and more government inspectors have been appointed.
Foreign workers, mainly from South Asia, make up more than two million of Qatar’s 2.8 million population.
But Amnesty said only about 48,000 workers have so far been green-lighted to claw back recruitment fees.
It said the requested $440 million represents only a “small fraction” of the $6 billion in revenues FIFA is expected to make over the next four years, much of it from the World Cup.


Second flight lands at Sanaa airport as Yemen parties pressured to extend truce

Second flight lands at Sanaa airport as Yemen parties pressured to extend truce
Updated 18 May 2022

Second flight lands at Sanaa airport as Yemen parties pressured to extend truce

Second flight lands at Sanaa airport as Yemen parties pressured to extend truce
  • The first commercial flight since 2016 took off from Sanaa airport on Monday after the Yemeni government allowed passengers with passports issued by the Houthis to leave the country

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A second commercial flight carrying dozens of passengers landed at the Houthi-held Sanaa airport on Wednesday as international mediators and world powers continue to pressure Yemen’s warring parties to extend the two-month truce.

The plane took off from Amman in the morning and landed at Sanaa airport at 2 p.m., further boosting hopes of the resumption of flights to other destinations, and the strengthening of the ceasefire.

Hans Grundberg, the UN’s Yemen envoy who had helped to negotiate the peace pact, announced the departure of the second flight from Jordan’s capital.

“A second commercial flight took off from Amman to Sanaa carrying Yemeni passengers at 10:30 a.m. today, as per the terms of the truce agreement and is scheduled to return back from Sanaa to Amman with Yemeni passengers at 4 p.m.,” Grundberg tweeted.

The first commercial flight since 2016 took off from Sanaa airport on Monday after the Yemeni government allowed passengers with passports issued by the Houthis to leave the country.

The resumption of the flights from Sanaa is one of several terms of the truce that came into effect on April 2. Under the agreement, the Yemeni parties would stop fighting on all fronts, allow fuel ships to enter Hodeidah seaports, and work with the UN to open roads in Taiz and other provinces.

At the same time, the UN envoy said on Wednesday that he resumed his meetings with Yemeni economists, politicians and security figures in Amman to produce ideas for his peace plan.

“The UN envoy for #Yemen resumes today his consultations to identify economic, political & security priorities for the multi-track process. Today he meets with a diverse group of Yemeni public figures, experts & civil society actors,” his office tweeted.

In his remarks to the press after his closed briefing to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Grundberg said that he discussed extending the pact with various Yemeni parties. “Yemenis can’t afford to go back to the pre-truce state of perpetual military escalation and political stalemate. I continue to engage the parties to overcome outstanding challenges and to ensure the extension of the truce,” he said, adding that the Houthis have not nominated their representatives for a meeting with the Yemeni government that would discuss ending their siege on Taiz.

Tim Lenderking, the US’ envoy to Yemen, also urged the warring factions to uphold and extend the truce, and to jointly work on opening roads in Taiz.

“We hope the resumption of flights to & from Sanaa brings relief to Yemenis. We must ensure the freedom of movement of people & goods, incl opening roads to Taiz. We call on the parties to adhere to & extend the @UN truce,” Lenderking tweeted.

In the besieged Taiz, residents have intensified their campaigns on the ground and on social media to draw attention to their daily suffering.

“This siege has turned the city of Taiz into a large prison and caused a real human tragedy. They opened Sanaa airport and ports and ignored Taiz’s suffering from the siege,” Ahmed Al-Qaidhy, an activist from the area, told Arab News.


Hamas-backed bloc wins West Bank student elections

Hamas-backed bloc wins West Bank student elections
Updated 18 May 2022

Hamas-backed bloc wins West Bank student elections

Hamas-backed bloc wins West Bank student elections
  • The Hamas-backed bloc with 5,060 votes won 28 seats, while the Fatah-supported bloc with 3,379 votes bagged just 18 seats

RAMALLAH: The Islamic bloc affiliated with Hamas won the student council elections at Birzeit University in the West Bank on Wednesday, defeating their Fatah rivals in the tightly contested vote.

The Hamas-backed bloc with 5,060 votes won 28 seats, while the Fatah-supported bloc with 3,379 votes bagged just 18 seats.

Five blocs contested 51 seats, while the voter turnout was 78.1 percent. 

Students witnessed an intense debate between representatives of the rival blocs the previous day, with both parties’ policies and programs coming in for criticism.

The Islamic bloc has led the student council in recent years.

Their Fatah-backed rivals say they are paying the price for the mistakes of the Palestinian Authority in terms of corruption, nepotism and security coordination with Israel, and losing elections frequently.

A day before the vote, seven senior student members of the Islamic bloc were arrested by an Israeli undercover unit, which generated sympathy for the group and translated into votes, experts told Arab News.

Ghassan Al-Khatib, vice president of the university, said that the student council vote is an indicator of Palestinian public opinion and political balances in Palestinian society “because of the credibility, integrity and democracy at the Birzeit elections.”

Mohammed Daraghmeh, a senior Palestinian writer, told Arab News that Birzeit students are not influenced by employment interests or work, so the electoral process takes place “in a democratic atmosphere and with great integrity.”

He added: “If Hamas wins, the street is supportive and biased toward it. If Fatah wins, this means that the street is with it.”

Daraghmeh said that both Fatah and Hamas make great efforts to win the students’ backing.

The election “helps Hamas strengthen its political discourse, and show that Palestinian public opinion in the West Bank supports its path and political line,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fatah “wants to defend the legitimacy of the Palestinian political system in light of its inability to organize Palestinian general elections.”

Birzeit elections are held every two years, with about 15,000 students voting for 51 seats. There was no vote in 2021 owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

The secretariat of the administrative body of the council consists of 13 members.

Birzeit was established in 1973 as a public university, and is the only West Bank academic institution that allows Hamas to practice its activities and politics without interference from Israel or the PA.

A number of prominent Palestinian leaders have graduated from the university, which offers 36 bachelor’s degree programs and 13 master’s programs, and employs 500 teachers.

Students from the West Bank and a few hundred Palestinians living in Israel study there.

Basem Naim, a prominent Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, told Arab News that the political group views the student vote as “an essential indicator” because it highlights the direction of future generations.

“The Birzeit University elections constitute an essential platform for Hamas because most Palestinian leaders are university graduates. Therefore, their strength today indicates the type of future leaders of the Palestinian people in all sectors and fields,” he said.