Amnesty accuses Lithuania of arbitrarily detaining migrants, subjecting them to inhumane treatment

Amnesty accuses Lithuania of arbitrarily detaining migrants, subjecting them to inhumane treatment
A man being held in a detention center in Alytus, Lithuania. (Reuters)
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Updated 27 June 2022

Amnesty accuses Lithuania of arbitrarily detaining migrants, subjecting them to inhumane treatment

Amnesty accuses Lithuania of arbitrarily detaining migrants, subjecting them to inhumane treatment
  • Treatment of refugees from Iraq, Syria and other regions in stark contrast to the treatment of refugees from Ukraine white_check_mark eyes raised_hands

LONDON: Amnesty International has accused Lithuanian authorities of arbitrarily detaining thousands of migrants in military centers, subjecting them to “inhumane treatment” and torturing them.

Amnesty International released a report detailing how refugees and migrants have been held for months in prison-like facilities in Lithuania, where they are denied fair asylum procedures and subjected to serious human rights violations.

Amnesty International conducted interviews with dozens of refugees from Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Many have reported being beaten, insulted and subjected to racially-motivated intimidation and harassment by guards.

They also complained of insufficient access to sanitary facilities and healthcare.“In Iraq, we hear about human rights and women’s rights in Europe. But here there are no rights”, said a Yazidi woman who was detained in the Medininkai detention center to Amnesty.

This treatment stands in stark contrast to the treatment of people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine.

“While Lithuania has rightly extended a warm welcome to tens of thousands of people fleeing Ukraine, the experience of the detainees we spoke with could not be more different. This raises serious concerns about institutional racism embedded within Lithuania’s migration system.” said Nils Muižnieks, Europe Regional Director of Amnesty International.

In July 2021, lawmakers passed new legislation mandating the detention of people who irregularly crossed into Lithuanian territory.

In order to escape EU legal safeguards against arbitrary detention, Lithuanian authorities described such detention as “temporary accommodation”.

The detainees interviewed by Amnesty International reported the aggressive behavior of the center’s guards when they protested against the appalling detention conditions.

Authorities retaliated by beating them with batons, spraying them with pepper spray, and using taser guns.

A psychologist who worked at the center is being investigated for alleged sexual violence against detainees in his care.

Amnesty International also documented how racialized detainees, particularly Black men and women, were subjected to profoundly offensive racist slurs.

Despite the overwhelming evidence released today by Amnesty and other international organizations and local groups over the last year, the European Parliament claims that there is no hard evidence of these international and EU law violations.

Speaking to Euronews, Lithuanian interior minister Agne Bilotaite said the report “tends to reflect the views and testimonies of only one side,” and that Lithuania had “continuously cooperated with all human rights institutions and organisations and adhered to the principle of open dialogue and the rule of law.”


Donald Trump to testify in New York attorney general’s civil investigation

Donald Trump to testify in New York attorney general’s civil investigation
Updated 10 sec ago

Donald Trump to testify in New York attorney general’s civil investigation

Donald Trump to testify in New York attorney general’s civil investigation
  • Former US president’s testimony comes amid a flurry of legal activity surrounding him
  • Attorney general’s office: Republican billionaire’s deposition — a legal term for sworn testimony that’s not given in court — is one of the few remaining missing pieces
WASHINGTON: Former President Donald Trump will be questioned under oath Wednesday in the New York attorney general’s long-running civil investigation into his dealings as a real estate mogul, he confirmed in a post on his Truth Social account.
Trump’s testimony comes amid a flurry of legal activity surrounding him, taking place just days after FBI agents searched his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida as part of an unrelated federal probe into whether he took classified records when he left the White House.
The New York civil investigation, led by Attorney General Letitia James, involves allegations that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, misstated the value of prized assets like golf courses and skyscrapers, misleading lenders and tax authorities.
“In New York City tonight. Seeing racist N.Y.S. Attorney General tomorrow, for a continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in US history!” Trump wrote on Truth Social, invoking his oft-repeated claims about James, who is Black, and the investigation.
“My great company, and myself, are being attacked from all sides,” Trump added. “Banana Republic!”
Messages seeking comment were left with James’ office and with Trump’s lawyer.
Trump’s testimony is happening at a critical point in James’ investigation, midway through a pivotal week in his post-presidency.
In May, James’ office said that it was nearing the end of its probe and that investigators had amassed substantial evidence that could support legal action, such as a lawsuit, against Trump, his company or both.
The Republican billionaire’s deposition — a legal term for sworn testimony that’s not given in court — is one of the few remaining missing pieces, the attorney general’s office said.
Two of Trump’s adult children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, testified in the investigation in recent days, two people familiar with the matter said. The people were not authorized to speak publicly and did so on condition of anonymity.
The Trumps’ testimony had initially been planned for last month but was delayed after the July 14 death of the former president’s ex-wife, Ivana Trump, the mother of Ivanka, Donald Jr. and another son, Eric Trump, who sat for a deposition in James’ investigation in 2020.
On Friday, the Trump Organization and its longtime finance chief, Allen Weisselberg, will be in court seeking dismissal of tax fraud charges brought against them last year in the Manhattan district attorney’s parallel criminal probe.
James, a Democrat, has said in court filings that her office has uncovered “significant” evidence that Trump’s company “used fraudulent or misleading asset valuations to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions.”
James alleges the Trump Organization exaggerated the value of its holdings to impress lenders or misstated what land was worth to slash its tax burden, pointing to annual financial statements given to banks to secure favorable loan terms and to financial magazines to justify Trump’s place among the world’s billionaires.
The company even exaggerated the size of Trump’s Manhattan penthouse, saying it was nearly three times its actual size — a difference in value of about $200 million, James’ office said.
Trump has denied the allegations, explaining that seeking the best valuations is a common practice in the real estate industry. He says James’ investigation is part of a politically motivated “witch hunt” and that her office is “doing everything within their corrupt discretion to interfere with my business relationships, and with the political process.”
“THERE IS NO CASE!” Trump said in a February statement, after Manhattan Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that James’ office had “the clear right” to question Trump and other principals in his company.
While James has explored suing Trump or his company, the Manhattan district attorney’s office has long pursued a parallel criminal investigation.
That probe had appeared to be progressing toward a possible criminal indictment, but slowed after a new district attorney, Alvin Bragg, took office in January.
A grand jury that had been hearing evidence disbanded. The top prosecutor who had been handling the probe resigned after Bragg raised questions internally about the viability of the case.
Bragg has said his investigation is continuing, which means that Trump could invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination and decline to answer questions from James’ investigators.
According to the subpoena issued by James’ office, Trump was to appear in person at the attorney general’s office, located in a Manhattan office tower that has doubled as the fictional conglomerate Waystar Royco’s headquarters on HBO’s “Succession.”
As vociferous as Trump has been in defending himself in written statements and on the rally stage, legal experts say the same strategy could backfire in a deposition setting because anything he says could potentially be used against him or his company in the criminal investigation. No former president has even been charged with a crime.
In fighting to block the subpoenas, lawyers for the Trumps argued New York authorities were using the civil investigation to get information for the criminal probe and that the depositions were a ploy to avoid calling them before a criminal grand jury, where state law requires they be given immunity.
Last summer, spurred by evidence uncovered by James’ office, Manhattan prosecutors filed charges against Weisselberg and the Trump Organization. Prosecutors said Weisselberg collected more than $1.7 million in off-the-books compensation.
Weisselberg and the company have pleaded not guilty.
Weisselberg and Eric Trump each invoked the Fifth Amendment more than 500 times when questioned by James’ lawyers during separate depositions in 2020, according to court papers.
The former president could choose to do the same, but it’s likely “he’ll claim lack of knowledge on many questions,” New York University law professor Stephen Gillers said.
That could be a successful strategy, since Trump is known as more of a “big-picture guy” Gillers said. “So he’ll answer the big-picture questions and those answers will be general enough to keep him out of trouble, or so his lawyers will hope.”
“On the other hand, his impetuosity makes him a lawyer’s nightmare and his overconfidence may lead him astray. Whoever questions him will encourage that,” the professor added.
Once her investigation wraps up, James could decide to bring a lawsuit and seek financial penalties against Trump or his company, or even a ban on them being involved in certain types of businesses.

South Korea’s rain-hit capital region reeling from flood damages

South Korea’s rain-hit capital region reeling from flood damages
Updated 15 min 32 sec ago

South Korea’s rain-hit capital region reeling from flood damages

South Korea’s rain-hit capital region reeling from flood damages
  • Two days of record-breaking rainfall unleashed flash floods, damaged thousands of buildings and roads and killed at least nine people

SEOUL: Cleanup and recovery efforts gained pace in South Korea’s greater capital region Wednesday as skies cleared after two days of record-breaking rainfall that unleashed flash floods, damaged thousands of buildings and roads and killed at least nine people.
While lifting heavy rain warnings for Seoul and the neighboring metropolitan areas, South Korea’s weather agency forecasted 10 to 30 centimeters (4 to 12 inches) of rain in the country’s southern regions through Thursday.
Seven people remain missing in Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi Province following the heavy rains that swamped the region Monday and Tuesday, turning streets into car-clogged rivers, sending floods cascading into subway stations, triggering landslides that crashed into roads and buildings, and displacing more than 1,800 people from their homes. The nine people who died included four who drowned in their homes in Seoul.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol during a disaster response meeting Wednesday apologized on behalf of the government over the deaths and disruption caused by the heavy rains. He urged the central government to provide more financial help and personnel assistance to cities and regional governments to speed up recovery efforts.
He also called for significant improvements to the country’s flood management systems, including building more rain tanks and tunnels and improving flood-prediction technologies, citing the growing challenges posed by extreme weather events.
“It’s certainly true that (the rainfall) was abnormal weather, but we have come to a point where we can no longer call abnormal weather abnormal,” Yoon said. “We could see new record levels (of rain) at any time. We need to build our response so that we are ready for a situation that’s worse than we had imagined.”
The Ministry of the Interior and Safety said workers through Wednesday afternoon had finished restoring more than 90 percent of some 2,800 buildings, homes, roads and other facilities in the capital area that had been prioritized in emergency recovery plans.
Nearly 3,000 government workers, including police and fire department personnel, and dozens of excavators and dump trucks have been deployed in the recovery efforts. The military has separately deployed around 1,300 troops, some of whom were seen cleaning debris and salvaging furniture at flooded neighborhoods in southern Seoul.
There were no immediate reports of major damage or casualties in regions south of the capital area, where the weather agency issued heavy rain warnings. Landslide warnings were issued in more than 30 cities and towns across the country,
More than 52 centimeters (20 inches) of rain was measured in Seoul’s hardest-hit Dongjak district from Monday to Wednesday at noon. Precipitation in the area exceeded 14 centimeters (5.5 inches) per hour at one point Monday night — the highest hourly downpour measured in Seoul since 1942.


Russian shelling kills 21 in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region

Russian shelling kills 21 in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region
Updated 23 min 19 sec ago

Russian shelling kills 21 in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region

Russian shelling kills 21 in Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region

KYIV: Russian shelling has killed 21 people in Ukraine’s central Dnipropetrovsk region overnight, governor Valentyn Reznychenko said on Wednesday.
Eleven people were killed in the district of Nikopol and 10 in the town of Marganets, he said on the Telegram messaging app.


Japan’s PM shakes up cabinet in ‘damage control’ amid Unification Church furor

Japan’s PM shakes up cabinet in ‘damage control’ amid Unification Church furor
Updated 30 min 42 sec ago

Japan’s PM shakes up cabinet in ‘damage control’ amid Unification Church furor

Japan’s PM shakes up cabinet in ‘damage control’ amid Unification Church furor
  • Government team shake-up comes earlier than analysts had expected
  • Some ministers with links to the Unification Church removed

TOKYO: Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida reshuffled his cabinet on Wednesday, removing some ministers with links to the Unification Church in a bid to stem plunging support amid growing public outrage over the ruling party’s ties to the controversial group.
Kishida, in office since last October, announced his new government team in a shake-up that came earlier than analysts had expected.
While key personnel like foreign minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and finance chief Shunichi Suzuki held on to their posts, some high-profile ministers were removed, including Nobuo Kishi, the younger brother of slain former premier Shinzo Abe, replaced as defense minister by Yasukazu Hamada.
In the month since Abe was gunned down, a spotlight has been turned on the Liberal Democratic Party’s (LDP) long-standing ties to the Unification Church, with polls showing plunging approval ratings for Kishida with respondents citing a need to know just how close those ties might be.
Abe’s suspected killer has said his mother was a Unification Church member bankrupted by donating to it, and blamed Abe for promoting it.
In the latest survey, his support had fallen to 46 percent from 59 percent just three weeks ago, public broadcaster NHK said on Monday, the lowest rating for Kishida since he became prime minister.
“He’s basically doing damage control,” said political commentator Atsuo Ito. “What people are really watching is the Unification Church.”
The religious group itself is set to hold a rare news conference with foreign media late on Wednesday.
In other changes, Koichi Hagiuda, the trade minister, became head of the LDP’s policy research council, a heavyweight job in the party. That appointment is seen as an attempt to appease members of the Abe faction, the party’s biggest, though Hagiuda has publicly acknowledged attending an event held by a Unification Church-related group.


China reaffirms threat of military force to annex Taiwan

China reaffirms threat of military force to annex Taiwan
Updated 50 min 22 sec ago

China reaffirms threat of military force to annex Taiwan

China reaffirms threat of military force to annex Taiwan
  • Beijing seeks ‘peaceful unification’ with Taiwan but ‘does not pledge to relinquish the use of military force and retains all necessary options’

BEIJING: China on Wednesday reaffirmed its threat to use military force to bring self-governing Taiwan under its control, amid threatening Chinese military exercises that have raised tensions between the sides to their highest level in years.
The statement issued by the Cabinet’s Taiwan Affairs Office and its news department followed almost a week of missile firings and incursions into Taiwanese waters and airspace by Chinese warships and air force planes.
The actions have disrupted flights and shipping in a region crucial to global supply chains, prompting strong condemnation from the US, Japan and others.
The Chinese statement said Beijing seeks “peaceful unification” with Taiwan but “does not pledge to relinquish the use of military force and retains all necessary options.”
In an additional response, China said it was cutting off dialogue on issues from maritime security to climate change with the US, Taiwan’s chief military and political backer.
China says the threatening moves were prompted by a visit to Taiwan last week by US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, but Taiwan says such visits are routine and that China used that merely as a pretext to up its threats.
Taiwan’s foreign minister warned Tuesday that the Chinese military drills reflect ambitions to control large swaths of the western Pacific, while Taipei conducted its own exercises to underscore its readiness to defend itself.
Beijing’s strategy would include controlling the East and South China seas via the Taiwan Strait and imposing a blockade to prevent the US and its allies from aiding Taiwan in the event of an attack, Joseph Wu told a news conference in Taipei.
Beijing has extended the ongoing exercises without announcing when they will end.
Taiwan split with the mainland amid civil war in 1949 and the island’s 23 million people overwhelmingly oppose political unification with China, while preferring to maintain close economic links and the status quo of de-facto independence.
Through its maneuvers, China has pushed closer to Taiwan’s borders and may be seeking to establish a new normal in which it could eventually control access to the island’s ports and airspace.
The US, Taipei’s main backer, has also shown itself to be willing to face down China’s threats. Washington has no formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan in deference to Beijing, but is legally bound to ensure the island can defend itself and to treat all threats against it as matters of grave concern.
That leaves open the question of whether Washington would dispatch forces if China attacked Taiwan. US President Joe Biden has said repeatedly the US is bound to do so — but staff members have quickly walked back those comments.
Beyond the geopolitical risks, an extended crisis in the Taiwan Strait — a significant thoroughfare for global trade — could have major implications for international supply chains at a time when the world is already facing disruptions and uncertainty in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
In particular, Taiwan is a crucial provider of computer chips for the global economy, including China’s high-tech sectors.
In response to the drills, Taiwan has put its forces on alert, but has so far refrained from taking active counter measures.
On Tuesday, its military held live-fire artillery drills in Pingtung County on its southeastern coast.