UK confident it can overturn legal ban on Rwanda plan

UK confident it can overturn legal ban on Rwanda plan
Migrants, picked up at sea attempting to cross the English Channel, are helped ashore from an Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s (RNLI) lifeboat at Dungeness on the southeast coast of England, on Wednesday. (AFP)
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Updated 15 June 2022

UK confident it can overturn legal ban on Rwanda plan

UK confident it can overturn legal ban on Rwanda plan
  • The government had been forced to fight a series of legal challenges in London courts
  • Charities, political opponents and religious leaders have accused the government of waging an "inhumane" battle against asylum seekers

LONDON/KIGALI: Britain pressed on with its plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda on Wednesday despite a last-minute intervention by European judges that grounded the first flight minutes before it was due to depart.
The government had been forced to fight a series of legal challenges in London courts, and believed it was ready to deport a handful of migrants on a charter plane to Rwanda on Tuesday night before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHO) stepped in.
Charities, political opponents and religious leaders have accused the government of waging an “inhumane” battle against asylum seekers. The government argues the policy will smash the business model of people-smuggling networks.
Therese Coffey, work and pensions minister, told BBC TV the government had been surprised by the intervention but was already preparing for the next flight.
“We still need to obviously go through that ruling, decide the next legal steps but also prepare the next flight,” she said.
“The only people who really benefit from this are the traffickers who, frankly as they push the boats out, don’t really care if people live or die.”
Britain struck a deal with Rwanda in April to sends tens of thousands of asylum seekers to the East African country in what it said was a bid to stem the flow of migrants who make dangerous trips across the English Channel from France.
The United Nations’ refugee chief has called the policy “catastrophic,” the entire leadership of the Church of England denounced it as immoral, and media reports have said Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, had privately described the plan as “appalling.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain would not be deterred, and the issue has raised demands from some Conservative lawmakers for Britain to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights altogether.
“Will it be necessary to change some laws to help us as we go along? It may very well be and all these options are under constant review,” Johnson said on Tuesday.
Coffey said she was not aware of any plan for Britain to change its relationship with the European court, which is part of the 46-nation Council of Europe.
The ECHO ruling, which related to one of the men, an Iraqi, who was due to be on the first Rwandan flight, said he should not be removed until after a full court trial is held in London to decide on the legality of the scheme. This is due to take place next month.
The Care4Calais charity, which launched legal challenges on behalf of some of the migrants, said of the seven men due to be on the flight, four had their deportations blocked by the British courts and three by the ECHO.
Britain says the 120-million-pound ($148 million) deal with Rwanda will smash the business model of people-smuggling networks as well as stemming the flow of dangerous cross-Channel trips. More than 28,500 people arrived in Britain on small boats last year, and some 444 were detected on Tuesday alone.
The Rwandan government said it remained fully committed to the plan.
“Rwanda stands ready to receive the migrants when they do arrive and offer them safety and opportunity in our country,” government spokesperson Yolande Makolo said.


EU proposal would send proceeds of frozen Russian funds to Ukraine

EU proposal would send proceeds of frozen Russian funds to Ukraine
Updated 58 min 25 sec ago

EU proposal would send proceeds of frozen Russian funds to Ukraine

EU proposal would send proceeds of frozen Russian funds to Ukraine
  • Moscow says seizing its funds or those of its citizens amounts to theft
  • "Russia must ... pay financially for the devastation that it caused," Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU's executive said

BRUSSELS: The European Commission proposed a plan on Wednesday to compensate Ukraine for damage from Russia’s invasion with proceeds from investing Russian funds frozen under sanctions.
Officials in the EU, United States and other Western countries have long debated whether Ukraine can benefit from frozen Russian assets, including around $300 billion of Russia’s central bank reserves and $20 billion held by blacklisted Russians.
Moscow says seizing its funds or those of its citizens amounts to theft.
“Russia must ... pay financially for the devastation that it caused,” Ursula von der Leyen, president of the EU’s executive said in a statement.
“The damage suffered by Ukraine is estimated at 600 billion euros. Russia and its oligarchs have to compensate Ukraine for the damage and cover the costs for rebuilding the country.”
European Commission officials said that one short-term option for Western nations would be to create a fund to manage and invest liquid assets of the central bank, and use the proceeds to support Ukraine.
The assets would be returned to their owners when sanctions were lifted, which could be part of a peace agreement that ensured Ukraine received compensation for damages.
“It’s not easy so it will require strong backing from the international community but we believe it is doable,” one official said.
With regard to the frozen assets of private individuals and entities, seizing these is usually only legally possible where there is a criminal conviction.
The Commission has proposed that violations of sanctions could be classified as an offense that would allow confiscation.
Von der Leyen also said that the Commission was proposing the establishment of a specialized court, backed by the United Nations, “to investigate and prosecute Russia’s crime of aggression.”
Moscow denies its invasion, which it calls a “special military operation,” constitutes aggression, a war crime under international law.


At least 16 killed, 24 wounded in north Afghanistan blast - local media

At least 16 killed, 24 wounded in north Afghanistan blast -  local media
Updated 30 November 2022

At least 16 killed, 24 wounded in north Afghanistan blast - local media

At least 16 killed, 24 wounded in north Afghanistan blast -  local media

KABUL: At least 16 people were killed and 24 others wounded Wednesday by a blast at a madrassa in Afghanistan's northern city of Aybak, a doctor at a local hospital said.

There have been dozens of blasts and attacks targeting civilians since the Taliban returned to power in August last year, most claimed by the local chapter of the Daesh group.

A doctor in Aybak, about 200 kilometres (130 miles) north of the capital Kabul, said the casualties were mostly youngsters.

“All of them are children and ordinary people,” he told AFP, asking not to be named.

The Taliban, which frequently plays down casualty figures, said 10 students had died and “many others” were injured.

“Our detective and security forces are working quickly to identify the perpetrators of this unforgivable crime and punish them for their actions,” tweeted Interior Ministry spokesman Abdul Nafay Takor.

Images and video circulating on social media -- which could not immediately be verified -- showed Taliban fighters picking their way through bodies strewn across the floor of a building.

Prayer mats, shattered glass and other debris littered the scene.


US, Europe security body seeks ‘end to Ukraine war, rights atrocities’

US, Europe security body seeks ‘end to Ukraine war, rights atrocities’
Updated 30 November 2022

US, Europe security body seeks ‘end to Ukraine war, rights atrocities’

US, Europe security body seeks ‘end to Ukraine war, rights atrocities’
  • Upcoming OSCE meet critical, says American envoy
  • Nuclear escalation a ‘real and imminent danger’

WASHINGTON: The upcoming meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, or OSCE, will be critical to help end the war in Ukraine and the continuing human rights violations resulting from the conflict. 

This is the view of Michael Carpenter, the US’ permanent representative to the OSCE, who spoke to Arab News recently about the group’s annual ministerial council gathering in Lodz, Poland, from Dec. 1-2. 

Carpenter said OSCE officials are expected to discuss the expansion of the organization’s work to tackle issues including human trafficking and election monitoring. 

While strongly criticizing Russia for its role in the conflict, Carpenter said European nations have recently engaged with Moscow and Kyiv for a “de-escalation.” 

Carpenter’s comments come in the wake of US news outlets reporting in the last two weeks of a secret meeting between CIA Director Bill Burns and his Russian intelligence counterpart, Sergey Naryshkin, in Ankara, Turkey. The meeting was part of ongoing US efforts to “communicate with Russia on managing (the) risk” of possible nuclear escalation. 

A CIA spokesperson declined to provide comment to Arab News on the meeting, citing a lack of authorization to speak about the CIA director’s schedule. 

The OSCE has 57 participating states from Europe, Central Asia and North America and works to promote human rights and democratic governance through election monitoring and combating human trafficking. 

It functions as a forum for dialogue on global issues affecting member states and has 13 field missions in the Western Balkans, Central Asia and Moldova. A new office will soon be set up in Ukraine. 

Carpenter said that a new field mission called the Support Program for Ukraine was inaugurated on Nov. 1, funded by a “generous contribution” from the US and other voluntary support. 

“Through this new field presence, we intend to support projects that will contribute to enhancing the resilience of Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, humanitarian demining (and) the mitigation of the environmental impacts of the war,” he said. 

The US delegation would be led by Victoria Nuland, America’s under-secretary of state for political affairs — joining representatives from the 57 OSCE participating states and 11 partner states.  

Carpenter said the most important topic of the upcoming meeting was the war in Ukraine. “The real story of the OSCE is not what has been said but what has been done.” 

He said the OSCE states take decisions based on consensus. It has three autonomous institutions — the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the Representative on Freedom of the Media, and the High Commissioner on National Minorities.

“The OSCE has a number of special representatives who carry out work on extremely important issues like anti-corruption, countering trafficking in human beings, supporting gender equality, and promoting tolerance and non-discrimination,” he said. 

He said that in Tajikistan, for example, the OSCE supports women resource centers that provide the only government-sanctioned outlets for victims of domestic violence. They have access to legal aid, psychological support, and help with finding employment. 

“In the Western Balkans and Central Asia, our field missions support efforts to document and safeguard stockpiles of small arms and light weapons to enhance stability and security in many of these post-conflict societies.” 

Carpenter said that as a result of the war in Ukraine the OSCE put out information on the risks of human trafficking using an innovative public-private partnership that pushes the information to the smartphones of those most at risk. 


Pakistan Taliban claim suicide blast killing 3

Pakistan Taliban claim suicide blast killing 3
Updated 30 November 2022

Pakistan Taliban claim suicide blast killing 3

Pakistan Taliban claim suicide blast killing 3
  • Taliban earlier announced an end to a shaky cease-fire with Islamabad and ordered nationwide attacks

QUETTA, Pakistan: Three people were killed and 23 injured Wednesday when a suicide bomber targeted a police truck in western Pakistan, an official said, an attack claimed by the domestic chapter of the Taliban.
The Pakistan Taliban — known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — are separate from the Taliban in Afghanistan but share a common hard-line Islamist ideology.
On Monday, the group announced an end to a shaky cease-fire with Islamabad declared over the summer and ordered nationwide attacks to resume.
Senior police official Azhar Mehesar told AFP the blast targeted a police team preparing to escort polio vaccinators in the city of Quetta and that those killed “include a policeman, a woman and a child.”
In a statement to AFP, the TTP claimed responsibility for the attack and said it would soon share further details.
The group was founded in 2007 by Pakistani jihadists who fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1990s before opposing Islamabad’s support for American intervention there after 9/11.
For a time they held vast tracts of Pakistan’s rugged tribal belt, imposing a radical interpretation of Islamic law and patrolling territory just 140 kilometers (85 miles) from the Pakistan capital.
The Pakistani military came down hard after 2014 when TTP militants raided a school for children of army personnel and killed nearly 150 people, most of them pupils.
Its fighters were largely routed into neighboring Afghanistan, but Islamabad claims the Taliban in Kabul are now giving the TTP a foothold to stage assaults across the border.
In the year since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan, Pakistan has seen a 50 percent surge in militant attacks, according to the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS).
Most of these attacks have been focused in the western provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, which neighbor Afghanistan.
The 2014 school assault deeply shocked Pakistan, and since then the TTP have vowed only to target state security forces.
Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only nations in the world where wild polio is still endemic.
Polio vaccination teams are routinely escorted by police in the western regions, and the TTP has made a habit of ambushing officers as they travel into those restive remote areas.
Pakistan officials on Monday launched a week-long immunization campaign aiming to inoculate over 13 million children living in “high-risk districts.”
In April, Pakistan reported its first case of polio in 15 months. Since then 20 cases have been reported, according to the government-funded End Polio Pakistan program.


Australian parliament censures former PM Morrison over secret ministries

Australian parliament censures former PM Morrison over secret ministries
Updated 30 November 2022

Australian parliament censures former PM Morrison over secret ministries

Australian parliament censures former PM Morrison over secret ministries
  • It marks the first time a former prime minister has been censured by parliament, though the motion is symbolic in nature

SYDNEY: Australia’s parliament on Wednesday voted to censure former Liberal prime minister Scott Morrison after an inquiry found his secret appointment to multiple ministries during the COVID-19 pandemic undermined trust in government.
Morrison, who lost power in a general election in May, secretly accumulated five ministerial roles during the pandemic: health, finance, treasury, resources and home affairs.
The historic motion, brought by the ruling Labor party, passed by 86 votes to 50 in the country’s lower house.
It marks the first time a former prime minister has been censured by parliament, though the motion is symbolic in nature.
“The fact is, that our democracy is precious,” Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said during the debate, speaking in favor of censuring Morrison.
“There’s no room for complacency.”
Morrison has said his decisions were lawful, and that the decision was necessary in case ministers became incapacitated during the pandemic.
“For those who wish to add their judgment today on my actions in supporting this censure motion, I simply suggest that they stop and consider the following: have you ever had to deal with a crisis where the outlook was completely unknown?,” Morrison said in parliament before the vote on Wednesday.
“In such circumstances, were you able to get all the decisions perfectly right?“
Morrison said he had only used the powers on one occasion, to block BPH Energy’s PEP-11 gas exploration project.
He accepted the recommendations of an inquiry into the appointment, including legislation requiring public notice of ministerial appointments.