UN rights vote Pyrrhic victory for China, say campaigners

UN rights vote Pyrrhic victory for China, say campaigners
A United Nations report into China’s Xinjiang region found torture allegations were credible and cited possible crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities. (AFP)
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Updated 08 October 2022

UN rights vote Pyrrhic victory for China, say campaigners

UN rights vote Pyrrhic victory for China, say campaigners
  • A bombshell United Nations report into China’s Xinjiang region found torture allegations were credible

GENEVA: The UN Human Rights Council damaged its credibility by dodging a discussion on Xinjiang, experts say, but campaigners brand it a Pyrrhic victory for China with Beijing’s impunity finally dented.
A bombshell United Nations report into China’s Xinjiang region, published on August 31, found torture allegations were credible and cited possible crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities.
Western countries sought to put the situation before the UN’s top rights body by seeking a debate on the report.
The United States and its allies were testing the water with a first-ever draft council decision targeting China by raising the issue at a low-key level.
But in a moment of high drama in Geneva on Thursday, the stand-off ended in council members voting against debating the report.
Intense Chinese lobbying in the 47-country council saw nations vote 19-17 against discussing the findings, with 11 abstaining — although Ukraine said Friday they meant to vote ‘yes’ rather than abstain.
The sore defeat for Western nations laid bare the strength of China’s diplomatic leverage and the frailties of their own.
While Beijing touted a victory for truth and justice, some said it made a mockery of the council and its core mission to promote and protect human rights worldwide.
Jo Smith Finley, a reader in Chinese studies at Britain’s Newcastle University, branded the council “completely dysfunctional.”
“It operates according to politics and economics (economic dependencies and indebtedness), not the universal values of human rights,” she tweeted.
David Griffiths, a human rights consultant at London’s Chatham House think-tank, called it the council’s “nadir.”
Nonetheless, rights groups and experts said there were plenty of silver linings, with the notion that China can never be challenged shattered.
Olaf Wientzek, director of the Multilateral Dialogue Geneva branch of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation think-tank, said the Xinjiang vote “absolutely hurts the credibility of the council.”
But, he said, the outcome flushed out where everyone stood.
“Every country had to confess its true colors. That alone was worth it,” he said.
Phil Lynch, executive director of the International Service for Human Rights NGO, suggested China had secured only a Pyrrhic victory: a win that comes with losses resembling a defeat.
He said the narrow 19-17 margin could be characterized as the opposite for rights campaigners, calling it a “Pyrrhic loss.”
“We weren’t successful in the vote but the closeness has really galvanized a sense that this is a cause we need to pursue and China cannot continue to enjoy impunity for crimes against humanity,” he explained.
“China mobilized massively and exerted enormous pressure and made various threats and offered inducements to delegations to oppose this text, and that notwithstanding it was only very, very narrowly defeated. We take heart and courage from that.”
“We’ve demonstrated that no state is above scrutiny.”
Lynch said the Xinjiang vote also demolished the common notion that a result should be guaranteed before seeking a vote, which also encouraged impunity.
Western liberal democracies will be doing plenty of head-scratching over the coming months to re-calibrate their approach at the next council session, set to start in February.
“It’s not like this (Xinjiang) report will be thrown in a trash bin of silence. I would be surprised if this issue would not come up again,” said Wientzek.
One major factor is that the council’s membership will be different next time round. On Tuesday, the UN General Assembly in New York will elect 14 new members to serve from 2023 to 2025.
“One or two countries or governments change, and the balance might shift,” Wientzek said.
On Friday, the Human Rights Council adopted its first-ever resolution on Russia’s domestic rights situation, appointing a special rapporteur to monitor abuses.
Seventeen countries voted ‘yes’, six said ‘no’ and 24 abstained.
Experts said the two votes showed the clear difference in diplomatic clout between China and Russia — two of the five permanent members (P5) of the UN Security Council — with Moscow down to a handful of reliable friends following its invasion of Ukraine.
After the disappointment on China, Friday’s Russia vote was “a glimmer of hope that at least, for the first time, there was enough courage to take on a P5 member,” said Wientzek.


Muslim World League and Columbia University launch interfaith research lab

Muslim World League and Columbia University launch interfaith research lab
Updated 11 sec ago

Muslim World League and Columbia University launch interfaith research lab

Muslim World League and Columbia University launch interfaith research lab
  • The project will develop training programs to address biases in communities and classrooms, and prevent discrimination and extremism

NEW YORK: The Muslim World League, in partnership with Teachers College, Columbia University in New York, on Wednesday launched the International Lab for Research and Leadership in Interfaith Collaboration and Coexistence.

Its founders said it aims to be a center of excellence for research, leadership and training to help combat all forms of hate and radicalization based on religion, race or ethnicity.

The Muslim World League has provided a grant to support the work of the lab, which will include the development of innovative, evidence-based training programs to address biases in communities and classrooms, along with the advancement of groundbreaking research to help foster and enhance coexistence and collaboration.

The officials who attended the signing ceremony for the project on Wednesday included Muslim World League Secretary General Mohammad Al-Issa, Teachers College President Thomas Bailey, Archbishop of New York Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Park East Synagogue Senior Rabbi Arthur Schneier, and members of the US Congress.

“The Muslim World League is dedicated to fighting hate speech and intolerance in all its forms,” said Al-Issa.

“We are honored to support the new International Lab for Research and Leadership in Interfaith Collaboration and Coexistence because it will expand that battle and, through training and research, will help eliminate discrimination and extremism before it can take root in young children.”

 


Majority of British Muslims live in most deprived areas of England and Wales: Data

Majority of British Muslims live in most deprived areas of England and Wales: Data
Updated 17 min 33 sec ago

Majority of British Muslims live in most deprived areas of England and Wales: Data

Majority of British Muslims live in most deprived areas of England and Wales: Data
  • 61% of Muslims live in the lowest 40% of areas ranked by deprivation
  • Campaigners call on policymakers to end ‘cycles of poverty’

LONDON: The majority of Muslims are living in the areas of England and Wales with the worst levels of deprivation, the UK Office for National Statistics revealed on Wednesday.

Muslims now account for 6.5 percent of the population in England and Wales, some 3.9 million in 2021, according to the latest ONS census. 

However, the data showed 61 percent of them live in the lowest 40 percent of areas ranked by deprivation score, The Guardian reported.

Tower Hamlets, considered one of the most deprived areas, had the highest percentage of Muslims in England and Wales in 2011. The census in 2021 shows that they now account for 39.9 percent of the local population. 

Meanwhile, only 4 percent of Muslims live in the 20 percent of areas least deprived.

Policymakers have been urged to address the “cycles of poverty” that have affected generations of British Muslims, the numbers of which have increased by 1.2 million in the last decade.

Muslim Council of Britain Secretary-General Zara Mohammed told The Guardian: “We’re now the second or third generation (of Muslims).

“There’s more of us here, and yet we’re still in these cycles of poverty and deprivation.

“I think part of that is down to socioeconomic conditions where people are housed, and the economic opportunities available.

“There’s something to really be said about what our politics and policies are doing to help those who are really suffering.

“There’s all these stereotypes and tropes around Muslims, but the reality is that people are actually in cycles of poverty. And these need to be broken.”

Sufia Alam, head of the Maryam Centre and programmes at East London Mosque in Tower Hamlets, told The Guardian: “I have worked for almost three decades in this borough and it’s one of the poorest in London and indeed in the country.

“Even though it’s a rich borough as well as a poor borough: We’ve got Canary Wharf on our doorstep.

“The (census data) are not surprising because of so many factors that we’ve often talked about: Islamophobia, cultural biases that exist, racism within institutions from education all the way to employment.

“I remember talking about the same thing in the 2011 census. Nothing’s really changed.”

 


Saudi solar project to help Bangladesh meet clean energy goals, mitigate power crisis

Saudi solar project to help Bangladesh meet clean energy goals, mitigate power crisis
Updated 37 min 33 sec ago

Saudi solar project to help Bangladesh meet clean energy goals, mitigate power crisis

Saudi solar project to help Bangladesh meet clean energy goals, mitigate power crisis
  • ACWA Power signed power plant agreement with Bangladesh earlier this week
  • Bangladesh has for months been struggling with acute energy crisis

DHAKA: A 1,000-megawatt photovoltaic power facility planned in partnership with a Saudi power giant was expected to help Bangladesh resolve its energy crisis, authorities in Dhaka said on Wednesday.
Bangladesh, which is dependent on imported liquefied natural gas, has been struggling with an energy crisis for the past couple of months.
On Monday, the Bangladesh Power Development Board, an agency under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, signed a memorandum of understanding with Saudi Arabia’s ACWA Power to set up a 1,000-megawatt solar power facility in the South Asian country.
“It’s a first track initiative to resolve the ongoing energy crisis to some extent,” Mohammad Hossain, director general of the BPDB, told Arab News.
He estimated that the project would comprise up to five power plants, cost around $3 billion, and would not take long to complete.
“It doesn’t take much time to implement solar power plant projects ... If everything goes well, we can expect within the next two years that these solar plants will be able to go for production.”
Authorities are now looking for appropriate land where the solar farm could be established.
“It can be on public land or ACWA Power can also propose some private land,” Hossain said. “Based on that we will conduct a feasibility study of the project.”
The facility would also help Bangladesh achieve its target of generating 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2041. With a total installed electricity generation capacity of 25,700 megawatts, the country’s current power generation mix comprises only 3 percent renewables.
“This kind of 1,000-megawatt project will help us to meet the target,” Dr. SM Nasif Shams, director of the Institute of Energy at the University of Dhaka, told Arab News.
“If we can secure this Saudi investment in the renewable energy sector, it will be a very positive thing for Bangladesh.”
The project would not only contribute to Bangladesh’s clean energy goals but also to its energy resilience.
Since mid-July, the government has been resorting to daily power cuts amid high global prices driven up by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Industries have been forced to remain idle for several hours a day as they do not receive sufficient power to run their operations.
In early October, some 80 percent of Bangladesh’s 168 million people were left without electricity after a grid failure, which occurred when more than one-third of the country’s gas-powered units were short of fuel.
“Considering the present situation, it’s difficult to import fossil fuel from foreign countries,” Shams said.
“If we can generate our own energy using renewable sources like sunlight or wind, this is always positive as we don’t have to import fossil fuel. And it’s also environment friendly.”
 


EU proposal would send proceeds of frozen Russian funds to Ukraine

EU proposal would send proceeds of frozen Russian funds to Ukraine
Updated 30 November 2022

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.